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Christmas on the River takes a community effort

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Each year the Christmas on the River event has happened, it has taken a community effort and 2016 is no exception.

From volunteers to students to members of the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce, a large scale team effort is needed to pull off the popular event.

With this year being the 45th COTR, the Chamber has made an even larger effort to promote this community celebration.

“We’ve had a great partnership with the Demopolis High School marketing team,” said Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce Director Ashley Coplin. “Those kids took that on. They’ve created a Twitter account for us, they’ve done a snapchat and they’ll also do a scavenger hunt throughout the events to help promote. Just getting the youth involved, getting teenagers back out to the event. Maybe they attended when they were younger and stopped coming for a while, but know they’re back and that’s really exciting.”

With such a large scale operation, time management from the beginging and end of planning is crucial.

“The hardest part is that everything happens at one time. Time management is crucial,” said Coplin. “We have a great group of volunteers working so that’s been great. It’s just making it all happen at one time and it ends up happening.”

While Susanna Naisbett serves as the overall chairperson of the COTR 2016, each event during COTR have their own chairperson and committee, which helps to spread work and get more members of the community involved.

For example, Mary Elizabeth Hilchey is the chairperson of the day parade, which is on the morning of Dec. 3, and outlined the effort that has gone into making that event a success.

‘We started in July with a summer camp for a week. We had a good turnout with about 20 kids coming in different days. Then in September we started working one day a week,” said Hilchey. “Several organizations come to help. Mrs. Meggin Mayben’s broadcasting students, Beta Club students from the middle school, and Youth LEAD came twice once early in the process and then just recently. They got to see the process from start to finish and some came on their own.”

Milchey then highlighted businesses such as WestRock for doing some welding, building and painting on the floats.

COTR Chairperson Naisbett also highlighted to contributions NES who helped by letting COTR use equipment and SunSouth Demopolis who provides 16 tractors to help pull floats. 

Naisbett said, “The people that you don’t see here actually hands on, but provide equipment to move stuff around so we can pull all this stuff off.”

The chairperson then mentioned individuals by name.

“You have people like Kenny Freeman, who won’t be here until Saturday, who gets all the drivers together for Saturday,” said Naisbett. “Then you have Keith and Audrey Yeager that cook breakfast for all the drivers. People don’t know about a lot of the stuff people do. The volunteerism is on so many different levels and from so many different places.”

“There’s no way they could all possibly be thanked,” said Hilchey. “It is the community. That’s what it takes to make COTR happen. People that live here and love it here.”

The day parade is just one part of the event, which starts in earnest on Wednesday night, but it just goes to show how many people it takes to make COTR a success each year.