Letter: Big Christmas in Little Washington

It takes not just a village but a whole county to make Christmas in Little Washington come to life — a whole county and months of work and a multitude of volunteers. The heart of the celebration is the parade — and what a parade it was! The person who made that happen — with great precision and finesse — was Thom Pellikaan of Woodville, with the formidable assistance of Diego Dagoberto and a team of volunteers, key among them Raym Crow, Fred Catlin, Ray Gooch, Tony Lavato, Brad Barns and Danny Wilson, who helped make the lineup happen and the parade move smoothly.

Every village in the county was represented, with Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and 4-H participants galore. Mark Rhein’s dove release was perfect — as was the “lunch bunch” float, the Soapbox Derby float, St. Peter’s Catholic Church’s living nativity, and the parade winning float, RAAC/Mountainside Dance Center’s, which carried the Munchkins from RAAC’s “Wizard of Oz” production, who sang their hearts out the entire route! The winning costume belonged to Oz’s Tin Man; the best animal costume went to the Jingle Belles’ Ronda Gregorio and her horse.

Rappahannock County High School’s Marching Panthers get better every year, and this year Wakefield Country Day School and Belle Meade School also put their all into the parade. There were horses in abundance (along with volunteer cleanup crews), llamas from Freestate Llamas and the Rappahannock Hunt’s best-disciplined dogs ever (with the exception of the one hound who detoured — twice, amid much commotion — to the cheese counter at Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, which says it sold more cheese than ever to two-legged customers who followed the dog’s lead).

And, of course, the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps led the way with 2013 Rappahannock News Citizens of the Year Lillian Aylor and Doug Baumgartner and 2014 Citizen of the Year Rev. Jennings W. “Jenks” Hobson III serving as grand marshals. Santa and Mrs. Claus were not only able to make it from the North Pole but also rode in splendor in a 1938 Dodge pickup truck. Thank you, Santa!

For the 500-plus parade-goers, who made the day, the Rappahannock Lions, with Jim Blubaugh and Larry Grove directing a host of volunteers, provided parking direction and made sure no one got stuck after the preceding days’ downpours. The Knights of Columbus were charged with ensuring good weather, and they came through gangbusters.

Thanks to Artisan Market coordinator Berni Olson and her volunteers, the town was busy early. Many thanks to RAAC Theatre, the town hall and the packing shed for use of their space. Volunteer coordinator Kim Nelson of Amissville (and Washington’s Hair Gallery) was relentless in her pursuit of every hand available and saw to all the details, including for the pony rides and living nativity — and then rode in the parade as one of the Desperate Horsewives.

Keir Whitson arranged the outside food vendors, who sold everything they had, including Etlan’s Little Country Store barbecue, the Washington fire and rescue squad’s hot dogs, warming soup and chili from Flint Hill’s Griffin Tavern and more. Alice Anderson worked to bring the nonprofits of Rappahannock County inside the artisan markets, and the pony rides by Old Dominion Hounds Pony Club were a huge hit.

Having a living nativity scene in front of the Washington Baptist Church reminded us of what Christmas is all about — and the menagerie assembled truly made the feeling of a stable real. Thank you one and all, especially Jeanee Garner and Jane Eberhardt, who lined up all the animals.

After the parade, I believe nearly every child in the county was in the audience for Steve Kish’s delightful magic show, and a huge thank-you to the Castleton Festival Singers, who were spectacular. The bonfire was lit by Hunt Harris — quite a job after our drenching rain the day before — and Jeff Light led some joyous caroling. Thanks to Betty Grigsby and her team of volunteers for their smooth work at the Theatre at Washington, which Wendy Weinberg once again generously provided (its last production with Wendy at the helm), and to Henry Gorfein for the lighting assistance.

When Santa climbed out of his truck and made his way to his big chair (thank you, John McPherson), the line to meet him was two-deep out to the street, and every child got time to relate their wishes plus received a pair of elves (thank you, Beverly Sullivan). Thank you to the elves who helped Santa, and a huge thank-you to Stonyman for use of their beautifully decorated plaza.

No one would have known about all the wonderful events planned, nor had a map and schedule of events, without Diane MacPherson of Foster Harris House, who worked on the guide up until Thanksgiving Eve.

Please enjoy the pictures — there are more on the Christmas in Little Washington Facebook page. A shout out to Molly Emmons, who kept up the page (and thanks to all of you who are posting wonderful pictures). What the pictures in today’s Rappahannock News don’t show is all the work that went in beforehand: Alice Anderson putting up signs all over the county, Sheriff Connie Smith and her deputies making sure that the parade route would work and closing roads and managing traffic at parade time, Dennis Brack for getting the word out and Mary Ann Kuhn for writing a wonderful article and for feeding the fife and drum corps, with the culinary help of John Bourgeois.

Let’s not forget that the day’s theme, “Christmas is a time of giving,” highlighted the fact that the event was a food- and fund-raiser for the Rappahannock Food Pantry. Parade sponsors Rappahannock Real Estate Resources, Artifacts on Main, The Inn at Little Washington, the White Moose Inn and the Rappahannock News all helped to make the fundraiser a success and to defray the costs of the day. Food was collected at a number of spots; thanks to all who helped fill up the boxes. (If you enjoyed the day, it’s not too late to contribute with a check to the Rappahannock Food Pantry, 602 Mount Salem Ave., Washington, VA 22747.)

This was just a sampling of all of the wonderful parade entrants and activities of the day, and a fraction of the dozens and dozens of people who helped. Thank you one and all. Merry Christmas, everyone, and see you next year!

Judy DeSarno
Chair, Christmas in Little Washington Committee

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