Murray Bishoff: Bound by tradition

Saturday, November 17, 2018

This time of year, many community activities help bind our towns together in rituals of the season. So many have their own traditions that at times seem to tie events into routines rather that open doors to new experiences.

The Festival of Lights, which opens on Wednesday, is a wonderful example of making a holiday tradition out of whole cloth, literally nothing into something that can be recreated year by year.

This will be the last year the event runs the same way. The Chamber of Commerce, which created the event, is keenly aware that the Festival of Lights continues only with the blessing and cooperation of the city. It may take three weeks of constant work to set up a little over 30 light displays. Thatís a lot of labor, paid by the city, to its trained employees.

The Chamber doesnít want to wear out its welcome taking such a commitment for granted, even if it gives half the donations by viewers to the city. The city donates much of that back to support the July 4 fireworks show anyway. In addition, the event could keep growing, but the storage building is now at capacity, and so are the electronic plugs out in the park.

Next year the Chamber plans to ask those who have light displays to pay for maintenance and upkeep each year. The only way new displays will be introduced will come through retiring some of the old displays.

So, enjoy the festival this year. It will likely change, and perhaps shrink a bit, in the future. Itís still a wonderful experience worthy of community support. This year, you should savor it even more.

Another thing to consider is the Christmas parade. Monettís annual procession started in 1948. Except for a few attempts to adjust the time and the date, the parade has changed very little in 70 years. Yes, there are fewer floats and fewer bands today, but the concept and the direction have barely budged.

This year, organizers of the high school homecoming parade tried something different. They lined up the parade along Front Street with great ease and suggested the Chamber reconsider its strategy.

The two parades differ dramatically. One lasts 10 minutes and the other lasts 50. One heads east, while the other heads west. Going west allows the Christmas parade to feed off many side streets, an arrangement polished from year to year and one that seems to work. Moving the parade from westbound to eastbound would have the front end meeting the back end of the procession along the way.

Nonetheless, itís worthwhile to consider different approaches to the same old celebrations. Decorations placed in unexpected places could offer new joys. Holiday displays in downtown store windows have been sorely missed.

We have numerous Christmas concerts ahead by various school groups, often hard to track and theyíve seldom been promoted outside the individual schools. Thanks to the MHS Performing Arts Center online calendar, itís possible to find out what you might be missing.

Upcoming concerts in the PAC include: the Messiah Project presenting Christmas operas at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 30; the MHS cheerleaders hosting the Christmas royalty pageant at 2 p.m. on Dec. 2; Monett Elementary School second graders holiday concert at 6 p.m. on Dec. 6; the Monett Historical Society presents Keltic Knot in concert at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7; the MHS winter band concert at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10; the MHS choir concert at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 13; the Ozark Festival Orchestra at 3 p.m. on Dec. 16; the middle school choir concert at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 18; and the MES choir concert at 6 p.m. on Dec. 20.

If youíre unfamiliar with some of these groups, the childrenís concerts are charming. The band and choir students work hard to prepare their material. The bigger groups are very professional.

Let it not be said thereís nothing to do in Monett. If you havenít tried one of these concerts before, chances are you simply didnít know about them. Take in a holiday experience that may be new to you.

The tendency to always do the same thing, sing the same holiday songs, follow the same path, may be comforting but stagnating. Try something different this year, and cherish the experiences you find. Think back that before 1948, Monettans could not count on a Christmas parade. Now they can. Donít take it for granted. Come out and see it. Holiday traditions are more fun when shared.

Murray Bishoff has served readers of The Monett Times since 1988. He can be reached at times-news@monett-times.com, or 417-235-3135.