Ever since the Coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., countless public events have been altered, limited, or canceled all together. The town of Montross was among those to take an especially large hit, as fears about the virus resulted in the cancellation of not just the year’s round of First Fridays, but also the Fall Festival and the Town Council’s annual Christmas Party. One of the few things to escape the axe, albeit in drastically diminished capacity, was the Christmas Spirit Festival. In the years before, it could be seen by many as something akin to a First Friday for December, with music, food, and local curios on display for everyone to see from all corners of the county and beyond. This year, it was a much more subdued affair, with a packed Courthouse Square replaced with everyone parked around the square in their cars, either listening to Mayor Joey King and Town Manager Patricia Lewis with their windows down or by livestreaming the event.
With the new lights bathing Route 3 in their gentle glow, the town is looking better than ever. Purchased back in the opening months of 2020 before the Coronavirus madness hit, it was Ricky Landon and Stan Schoppe who came up with the idea of getting sponsors for the new light strands. A donation of $600 covered a strand of lights, and would be dedicated to someone of the sponsor’s choice. According to Lewis, the town received 21 donations in just three months, which was more than enough to cover the entire cost of the new light strands. Each strand of lights also has a nearby sign, that tells who sponsored that particular section of lights, and who it’s dedicated to.
“There’s no question that this year has been unusual, scary, and unpredictable,” Lewis stated before the crowd of vehicles, “but one thing has remained the same. We have an awesome, caring, and giving community. Stan Schoppe, Doddy Lewis, and the others went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the lights were perfect. They traveled to North Carolina to pick them up, put plugs on each strand, and tested each one with Les Sisson to make sure they worked properly.
“I’d also like to commend the Westmoreland Volunteer Fire Department for putting the lights up each year, as well as taking them down, and a special thank you to Stan Schoppe, Ricky Landon, Doddy Lewis, and Bobby Reamy for spending the entire day putting the lights up.”
A plaque holding the names of all the donors and dedications will also be placed over in the Town Hall. Lewis finished her address with one final word of thanks.
“I can’t thank you all enough from the bottom of my heart,” Lewis continued. “How touching this is, how dedicated you are to your community, and the love that I feel from each of you; Merry Christmas to you all.”
Barbara Jean Jones of the Westmoreland Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary was next to speak.
“The lights are beautiful. They bring back so many memories of driving through town. We are truly blessed to have a town like this. Twenty-twenty has been a difficult year for many people, and we pray that our future will be better. As we drive through town this time of year, we find joy and beauty in the new lights, the lights on the spirit tree, and the music coming from the museum. Hallmark has nothing on our town.
“Take some time to reflect on the good in our lives,” Jones continued, “and try to put aside the sad. I’d like to thank the sponsors, both for the lights across town and on the spirit tree. I’d also like to thank the Westmoreland Volunteer Fire Department, who put up the lights each year.
“Let us reflect on the reason for Christmas,” she concluded. “Let us think of the little baby that was born, and how he came to set us free from our sins. Even though things are likely not as we want them to be, let’s be thankful for what we have.”
At that point, the tree was lit and the names of the donors and who the lights were in memory of were spoken aloud. When the last name was spoken, Mayor King stepped out for one final word, thanking everyone present “for making our community such a special place.”
With the event concluded, everybody slowly drove off into the soft December night, just before the clouds finally delivered on the promise of rain.