It was more than 30 years ago, but I clearly remember the conversation as if it were yesterday.
While enjoying an unusually balmy December evening with friends on the porch of the newly renovated Enders Saloon (now Plank's on Broadway), our attention turned to the small, lighted Christmas tree on the other side of the porch.
"We need to do more," all agreed.
Communitywide Christmas celebrations have come and gone over Grove City's 167 years and I find one of the most inspiring stories to be our first community tree celebration, noted in a 1936 The Grove City Record article.
In the middle of the Great Depression, the country, and more specifically our community, was thirsty for fellowship and gaiety. During a time when it was difficult to put food on the family table, goodwill and community cooperation prevailed when after four weeks of solicitations, 15 community organizations managed to scrape together $103.25 to purchase a 7-foot tree and candy for the children.
Festivities of following years varied greatly, from simple trees in Town Center with handmade decorations to large, illuminated stars suspended over Broadway with musical entertainment.
It wasn't until 1985, only a year or so after the dinner with friends at Enders, that the city expanded the annual tradition of a community Christmas Celebration.
The first modern-day tree-lighting ceremony included a Colorado blue spruce, decorated and displayed in the gazebo, which was located where the Safety Complex is today; musical entertainment; and decorated Town Center storefronts.
Now, nearly 35 years later, the annual Christmas Celebration is a full day of fun and activities. In Town Center from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, everyone can enjoy live musical performances and activities, including an ice sculptor; holiday shopping at the Mistletoe Market, local merchants and the Secret Santa shop in the museum. Guests visit with Santa and his reindeer while enjoying a parade stepping off at 7 p.m. that leads to the decorated, nearly 30-foot Colorado blue spruce, (donated by the Beavin family), where Santa will cue a countdown to light the tree.
We've come to realize over the years, there is so much beauty and tradition throughout the Christmas season, that it cannot be contained to just one area of the city. So again we thought, "let's do more."
This year marks the first time city Christmas lights will adorn street lamps extending east on Park Street to the Grant-Sawyer Home, beautifully decorated in period fashion, inside and out.
An open house at the homestead, from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 7, treats guests to vintage Christmas traditions, refreshments, hands-on activities and entertainment by the Grove City Chamber Singers, all within the newly renovated Relieffe Grant barn, Grant-Sawyer Home and the surrounding grounds.
We are thrilled to share the extraordinary experience of Christmas in the 1800s in Century Village at Fryer Park, also 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 7. Docents in period costume are stationed throughout the village to share stories of Christmas in an old, Ohio farming community.
Wanting to share this with everyone we can, guests can take a free bus ride from one historic site to the next, including the museum in Town Center. Donations to the Grove City Food Pantry are welcome.
Not only is Christmas a religious and cultural celebration rejoicing the birth of Jesus Christ, it is a glorious opportunity to "do more" -- to gather with family and friends and reflect on what is important in life. It's a time to share love, help others, express gratitude, show compassion and give back.
Our community is a gift -- one we are blessed to share with others.
Richard "Ike" Stage is the mayor of Grove City.