Let’s take time to give thanks


Randy Riley - Contributing columnist



Saturday night was a time of celebration in Wilmington. Like many things in our lives, we missed having our annual HomeTown HoliDazzle celebration last year.

We missed a lot of things last year.

The pandemic took many things from us. We lost friends and family members. Moments in time are gone forever – graduation ceremonies, parties, church services and gatherings of all sorts are not just behind us… they’re gone.

That made the 2021 HoliDazzle celebration even more special. It was back. Normal life was returning. This was the 15th year of HoliDazzle and, as of Saturday, it was back. As a community, once more, we celebrated the start of our holiday season right here in Wilmington – right where it was supposed to be.

Thanks to the sponsorship of the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Center, the streets were lined with smiling faces. As I stood on the announcer’s platform waiting for the parade to make it into the downtown block, I looked at the smiling faces of the children across the street. Excitement and anticipation filled their faces. They knew Santa was coming to town.

As the lights from the city police, the sheriff’s office and the Ohio State Patrol filled the downtown with flashing red and blue lights, the faces of people lining the street and sitting on curbs brightened up. Old and young alike, you could see joy spreading from person to person.

All the hard work by our neighbors, who worked for months to get prepared for HoliDazzle 2021, was about to come to life. All the floats were lined up and rolling. Food and drink were being sold. We could finally see and hear the parade coming into the downtown block.

Lights glowed from the vehicles, the wagons. Even the people who marched along the parade route wore glowing necklaces.

The Blanchester High School marching band filled the downtown with music. We didn’t have the Radio City Rockettes, but we did have the kick-line from Clinton-Massie High School entertaining the crowd. Young gymnasts flipped their way along the parade route. They jumped and flipped from hands to shoulders. They were amazing. I wish I had a fraction of their energy.

Sadly, my days of bouncing are behind me.

Beautiful horses and riders, adorned with Christmas lights, marched down the street. They thought of everything. I smiled to see volunteers with scoop shovels and a large bucket following the horses.

All the riders had to worry about was where their horses were going – not what they were leaving behind.

The evening was about celebration with community and families. I was delighted that several of my grandchildren were able to be there. A few of them even gathered around Pappy as I announced each parade float. Trevor Shoemaker even gave my grandson, Clayton, a name tag that identified him as Event Staff.

There is no way that we can thank Trevor and the volunteers and organizers enough for bringing HoliDazzle back and making it a reality.

All the businesses that sponsored floats and displays need to be recognized and thanked for bringing joy back into our downtown. Even the Grinch was there. He was busy wandering the streets, but instead of stealing Christmas, he was bringing smiles and spreading joy.

We all want to get back to normal. We’re not there yet. We are getting closer every day.

Someday we will get this pandemic under control. Our country has survived other horrible diseases. We survived smallpox. We survived polio. Infections that used to bring certain death are now cured by antibiotics.

Medical science has served us well. We now have cures where we once had funerals.

There is a way to put COVID-19 behind us. Listen to the experts. Wear a mask. Get your vaccination. Get your booster.

Our holiday celebration on Saturday made us feel like normal life was returning. As we sat in the Murphy Theatre listening to the Community Band or crowded into the Clinton County Courthouse to hear the Wilmington High School choir, it was a great feeling. Horse-drawn carriage rides and the mini-train brought smiles to many faces.

Like the Grinch, it seemed as if our hearts were being filled. Our hearts were growing. By the time Santa’s float passed, our hearts may have grown three times larger.

We have a lot to be thankful for.

Thanks, HoliDazzle.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.

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Randy Riley

Contributing columnist