For such a small town, East Bend sure knows how to ring in the holiday season in style.
On Saturday residents gathered at the East Bend Fire Station for the annual Small Town Christmas celebration. There were vats of chicken stew and pinto beans and desserts galore.
Organizers for the event said they weren’t sure exactly how many years the Small Town Christmas event has been happening, but it has become a tradition for many area residents.
“I just wouldn’t miss it,” said Carol Powell. “It’s wonderful and I look forward to it. I get to see all my friends and it’s to help the community and the firemen, we’ve got to remember them because they’re always here when we need them. And the food and everything is yummy.”
Following a brief welcome from the event organizers and Fifth U.S. District Rep. Virginia Foxx, everyone gathered in front of East Bend Elementary school for the lighting of the tree.
Robin Fitzgerald, a new Methodist minister in the community, gave a brief devotional before the tree was lit. She reminded attendees that this is “season of light.”
“A lot of times we put out Christmas lights, but we don’t necessarily think about the lights stand for,” Fitzgerald said. “I wanted to remind us today why we are people of light, a community of light. I just want us to remember that our job is to be the light, as a community and as individuals and as families. We are in the season of light and we can help people who are lonely and be the light for them. And when we do this we show that God is the light in the darkness.”
The Christian-based theme of the Small Town Christmas event is part of what so many in the community enjoy about the celebration.
“I think it is wonderful,” said Regina Martin. “Where else can you gather and celebrate Christ except in a small community?” Martin noted the annual God and Country Celebration hosted by the town around July 4 each year, another celebration that puts a focus on God for those of the Christian faith.
Fire Chief Ronnie Boles said the faith aspect of the event was also important to him. The firefighters and ladies auxiliary group does a lot of work to clear out the station in order to welcome the community for the celebration, he said, but it is worth it.
“To me, as a Christian and the fire chief, I think it’s an awesome opportunity,” Boles said.
Following the devotional time, the tree was lit and residents headed back inside to enjoy bowls of chicken soup and pinto beans.
Commissioner and Mayor-elect Archie Hicks said he hopes the Small Christmas Celebration would be a tradition that would continue for many years to come in East Bend.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.