Betsy Stephens named St. Nicholas for COTR 2017

Betsy Stephens was named St. Nicholas for Christmas on the River 2017 Thursday night. She is joined by her husband, Kirk, and children Bill, Molly and Ed.

When event organizer Jennifer Swims announced the name of St. Nicholas for Christmas on the River 2017 Thursday night, Betsy Stephens may well have been the only person in attendance that was surprised by the revelation. Just after the annual lighting of Public Square, Stephens stood on stage as one of the 10 nominees for the honor, confident she would soon be applauding one of her nine deserving neighbors as their name was called.

As Swims finished reading the impressive list of nominees and cited reasons for their inclusion in the festivities, she came to the announcement. “Betsy Stephens.” The name rolled off the evening emcee’s tongue with unmitigated ease and hung momentarily in the unseasonably warm, undeniably humid night air. Before Stephens could appropriately process the moment, an approving round of applause swelled up from the dozens in attendance.

“I was really, really surprised. When Jennifer told me that I was nominated, she didn’t tell me who else was nominated,” Stephens said of the moment she heard her name connected to the prestigious title. “And some years they don’t have many nominees. And I thought it was going to be one of those years and it is going to be quiet and I’m going to have to say something. Then, when I saw the list, I thought, ‘I’m good. I won’t have to say anything for sure.’”

Her surprise came as the logical culmination of a suddenly undermined temerity that she would not be named for the honor she has for decades seen go to some of the most deserving citizens. The honor seeks to recognize those who have functioned as a beacon through volunteerism and community service. The mantle, and the accompanying distinguishing garb, had now fallen to Stephens.

“I guess I was a little embarrassed because that’s not why I do anything,” Stephens, who instinctively ducks the spotlight, said. “I just think of other people as being worthy of this, the Cindy Hays. That’s who I think of when I think of St. Nick, the Jennifer Roemens. I’m honored.”

Stephens received the honor in front of a diverse crowd of onlookers that included her husband, her three children, and her mother and father. The heart to serve, evident to all who know her, is something Stephens intends to pass along to her children as she points to her mother as an influential presence in her own work.

“Just about service, I try to pass that on to them, try to make sure that they understand it,” Stephens said before sharing a value she has sought to impress upon her children. “I want to improve what you do. I don’t necessarily want to improve what you have.”

As the Christmas on the River festivities roll on, Stephens will now find herself near the middle of most of them. And as the day parade rolls through downtown Saturday, she’ll find herself in an unfamiliar position in the spotlight.

“I don’t know that I have every been on a Christmas on the River float. I don’t think I have. My children have been, but I don’t know that I’ve ever been on a float,” she said. “I’ve worked on floats and done other things with them, but I don’t think I’ve ever been on one. It’ll be fun.”

The list of nominees also included Mandy Fields, Richard Bryant, Jennifer Jordan, Kathleen Randall, David McGee, Amanda Hall, Sylvia Tate, Jennifer Thomason and Jim Stanford.

Mackey continues family COTR legacy

Sally Mackey displays a newspaper article with a photo of her aunt, Lynda Stapp, who was the first Miss Christmas on the River.

This year’s Miss Christmas on the River, Sally Mackey, has a voice and is delighted to share with everyone the excitement of Christmas on the River. She has been featured on various news stations to promote Christmas on the River 2017 and recently shared with the public her royal lineage.

Sally’s aunt, Lynda Stapp, was the very first Miss Christmas on the River crowned. “That was something Lynda was quick to remind us of,” Mackey said. She was very proud to be part of something so important to the city of Demopolis. Lynda was even in the COTR Day Parade last year.

Unfortunately, Lynda passed away last spring and left her family and friends way too soon. However, as her daughter, Annie Stapp Wells, recently reminded Sally and her mother, it is comforting knowing that her last act was one of giving and selflessness. Her organs extended the lives of two individuals in Tennessee. Last Friday, there was a fundraiser held in Lynda’s name, “Cheers to Lynda”.

Sally loved her aunt very much and wants to honor her name by spreading the word to be an organ donor. She is challenging everyone to become one. It doesn’t take much to make the choice, but it’s a choice that can do so much.

It seems this year’s Miss COTR not only has beauty and brains, but she also has a special heart.

Clarke named 2017 COTR Special Child

11-29-2017 — Demopolis, Ala. — Christmas on the River 2017 Special Child Ronnie (R.C.) Clarke, Jr. pulls the handle to light the Love Lights Tree atop Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. The lighting of the Love Lights Tree kicks off COTR festivities each year in Demopolis.

Hasty crowned Little Miss COTR 2017 (with gallery)

10-11-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Claire Elisabeth Hasty is crowned Little Miss Christmas on the River 2017 by Camdyn Grace Morgan, Little Miss COTR 2016, at the Demopolis Civic Center.

In the largest Christmas on the River Pageant, Little Miss COTR had 46 little angels competing for the title. They walked, skipped and even bounced their way into the judges hearts to stand out among so many contestants. The judges divide the number of girls to 26 in order to select a top 11. Those making the top 11 list were Katherine Hewitt, Khloe Wolf, Kendall Gandy, Makyla Rembert, Violet Smelley, Emily Parten, Naudia Reed, Carly Teel, Claire Hasty, Ansley Basinger and Emma Dahl.

The judges debated and chose a top 5 to answer the question, “What is your favorite thing to do at Christmas?”. After each little sweet voice answered, the esteemed judges had their decisions for the 2017 Little Miss Christmas on the River and her Royal Court.

Placing in the fourth alternate position was Kendall Marie Gandy in an ivory tulle gown. In a very sweet baby pink tulle gown was third alternate, Ansley Brooke Basinger. Naudia Naomi Reed earned second alternate wearing a beautiful white ball gown with rhinestone detailing. Awarded first alternate was Emma Rae Dahl who wore a gorgeous pink ruffled gown embellished with crystals.

Crowned Little Miss Christmas on the River was Claire Elisabeth Hasty in an elegant off-the-shoulder white gown with rhinestones and silver bead work. Claire is the seven year old daughter of Jared and Rebecca Hasty. She is a second grader at Westside Elementary School. She was so happy when they called her name out that she just couldn’t stop shaking with excitement. Claire is most excited about crowning a new queen next year and hopes a lot of girls will dress up next year and have as much fun as she did. She says to just believe in yourself and go into the competition to have fun and be with your friends.

Be on the look out to see all of this year’s winners and their Royal Court at all of the Christmas on River events, starting November the 29th with the lighting of the Love Light Tree.

Stokes crowned 2017 Young Miss COTR (with gallery)

10-10-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Kylie Elizabeth Stokes (right) reacts as she realizes that she will be Young Miss Christmas on the River 2017 as Adalyn Broox Lindsey’s (left) name is called as first alternate.

Young Miss Christmas on the River 2017 saw 33 contestants compete for the title at the Demopolis Civic Center. They paraded in true pageantry form to show their best style, poise and beauty as the judges chose a top 15. These young ladies presented their best and included Millie Hill, Emery Wideman, Susanna Bell, Elliegh Reid Dossett, Mary Carlton Parten, Madisen Sewell, Maddie Grace Teel, Sha’Keithia Murphy, Kyle Stokes, Olivia Tripp, Anna Kate Morrison, Adalyn Lindsey, Ari Freeman, Ali Basinger, and Bailey Madison Bolden.

After the top 15 contestants walked a second time, the judges narrowed the competition down to a top 5, who were judged on their ability to speak in public and think on their feet by answering the question, “What do you look for in a friend?” These third through fifth grade thought very hard to come up with the best answer to win the judges over. After the judges reflected on their decision, the new Young Miss COTR and her Royal Court were decided.

Placing fourth alternate was Mary Carlton Parten wearing a beautiful white tulle gown with silver and gold sequins. Susanna Bell was awarded third alternate in an off the shoulder elegant princess gown with lots of sparkle. Wearing a fabulous white formal gown with a silver beaded bodice and white rosettes on the skirt was second alternate, Emery Wideman. Adalyn Broox Lindsey earned first alternate wearing a gorgeous white satin gown embellished with crystals.

Crowned Young Miss Christmas on the River was Kylie Stokes in a perfect satin Christmas red gown detailed with crystals. Kylie is the daughter of Wayne and Heather Stokes and attends U.S. Jones. She was extremely shocked and overwhelmed at winning the title. Ms. Stokes is excited and looks forward to riding and waving in the COTR Day parade. She wants everyone to know how much fun it was to compete in this year’s pageant and hopes that everyone will sign up for next year and have as much fun as she did.

Come out and support the last of the COTR pagaents, Little Miss COTR, tonight at the Civic Center at 6pm.

Gray crowned 2017 Miss Junior COTR (with gallery)

10-9-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — LaCher Sincere Gray was crowned Miss Junior Christmas on the River 2017 by Molly Katherine Harrison, who was Miss Junior Christmas on the River 2016.

Monday night saw 16 beautiful young ladies compete in the Miss Junior Christmas on the River at the Demopolis Civic Center. They all presented their beauty, poise and confidence in hopes of being named this year’s winner. The top 11 chosen were Caylee Madison Jones, Anna Katherine Sellers, Madelyn Baty Singleton, Meredith Gray Patrenos, Taylor Mills Quinney, Abbie Grace Cameron, Wesley Elizabeth Craft, Megan Lindsey Roe, LaCher Sincere Gray, Leah Beth Stewart, and Cassidy Claire Crawford.

After a second parade of contestants, the top 5 were chosen and took the stage to answer the question “What makes you you happy or laugh?” The judges then debated and took in consideration the contestants answers and ability to speak in public, along with their poise and beauty to name the new Miss Junior COTR and her royal court.

Fourth Alternate was Meredith Gray Patrenos wearing a white chiffon dress with lace and crystal detailing on the bodice. Cassidy Claire Crawford was awarded third Alternate donning an emerald evening gown with beading at the waistline. In a Christmas red ball gown, Caylee Madison Jones was chosen as second Alternate. Taylor Mills Quinney earned the first Alternate position wearing a golden hued gown with lots of shine and sparkle.

This year’s Miss Junior Christmas on the River is LaCher Sincere Gray. LaCher was wearing an elegant white off the shoulder ball gown encrusted in crystals. She is the daughter of Henry and LaTara Jones and is in the seventh grade at Demopolis Middle School. LaCher said she was “super shocked but very excited to be named Miss Junior COTR.” She said she’d like to encourage other young ladies to participate in the pageant but to always have an open mind when competing. Miss Gray is looking forward to riding in this year’s COTR parade of floats.

Be sure to come to the Demopolis Civic Center and support more young ladies as they compete in the remaining COTR pageants.
Young Miss COTR Tuesday October 10th at 7pm.
Little Miss COTR Wednesday October 11th at 6pm.

Mackey crowned 2017 Miss COTR (with gallery)

10-7-17 — Demopolis, Ala. — Sally Mackey is crowned 2017 Miss Christmas on the River by 2016 Miss Christmas on the River JaKeira Washington at the Demopolis Civic Center.

Miss Christmas on the River has been a time honored tradition for 46 years. Freshman through Senior class young ladies from Demopolis and the surrounding areas compete in hopes of representing Christmas on the River during all of the wonderful holiday festivities that year. Twelve young ladies competed for the title of Miss Christmas on the River 2017 tonight at the Demopolis Civic Center. They showed their personality, charm and intelligence in an interview with the judges prior to gliding across the stage to present their poise and beauty to win the coveted title.

After all of the scores had been tallied, the top five were called to the stage to answer a question to show their ability to speak in public and to think on their feet. The scores were then tallied again and a new Miss COTR and royal court were decided.

Wearing an elegant black off the shoulder gown embellished with rhinestones on the sleeves was 4th alternate, Sidney Alyn Atkins. Abigayle Marie Quinney was named 3rd alternate in a classic off the shoulder black evening dress. In a gorgeous Fuchsia one shouldered gown, SueEllen Marie Broussard was awarded 2nd alternate. 1st alternate was McKenzie Lane Walker wearing a beautiful black evening gown outlined in rhinestones.
Sally Katherine Mackey was crowned Miss Christmas on the River 2017 wearing a stunning Sherri Hill Ball Gown encrusted with multi-colored crystals. Sally was also honored with the title of Miss Congeniality which is chosen by the other contestants. She is the daughter of Bill and Lori Mackey and is a student at Demopolis High School.

Sally is no stranger to representing Christmas on the River. Growing up with the tradition of the Christmas on the River pageants she has represented the Little Miss and Miss Jr. Christmas on the River titles and was part of the Young Miss Christmas on the River Royal Court. “I was honestly shocked at being crowned but extremely honored to be awarded the title and will represent it to the best of my abilities,” Mackey said

The Tradition continues with the remaining three pageants starting Monday at the Demopolis Civic Center: Miss Junior COTR is Monday October 9th at 7pm, Young Miss COTR is Tuesday October 10th at 7pm and Little Miss COTR is Wednesday October 11th at 6pm.

COTR 2016 Day Activities (gallery)

2016 Christmas in the Canebrake (gallery)

Photo of the Day

12-1-2016 -- Demopolis, Ala. -- Rebecca Hasty (right) crowned Gwinn Etheredge was crowned as St. Nick for Christmas on the River 2016. The ceremony was held at the public square in downtown Demopolis on Thursday night.

Rebecca Hasty (right) crowns Gwinn Etheredge as St. Nick for Christmas on the River 2016. Etheredge has been a resident of Demopolis since 1952. The ceremony was held at the public square in downtown Demopolis on Thursday night.