Peace, goodwill, brotherhood, love and friendship. What more could you ask for? It’s Christmas in Frenchtown.
It’s the evening when the Joseph Aubain Ballpark parking lot is not a parking lot — it’s a dance floor, a bandstand befitting the guest of honor, the bright and beautiful 28-foot tree whose lighting is the occasion for the evening.
Folks gather early to take a good look at the tree, sizing up its merits, kibitzing before the actual ceremony. You’d think they’d never done this before, by the excitement in air.
Actually, according to the Richardson brothers – Allan, chief architect of the affair, and Henry, president of the Frenchtown Civic Organization – nobody is really sure how long this has been going on.
"Almost as long as I can remember," said Henry.
This makes it likely very close to 50 years. Or not. What is more important is the spirit, which hasn’t changed. Folks run and greet each other with smiles, cheers, hugs, and maybe a little dance step or two.
Giselle Richardson-Jones did the mistress of ceremonies duties with aplomb inherited from her famous father, Allan. She was aided Sunday by another member of the family, who wasn’t listed in the program, but made quite a hit. Her 14-month-old daughter, Isabelle, who ran up to the stage, delighting in all the attention, staling the show in true Richardson fashion.
Then came the first moment of the night that the big folks in the crowd had awaited: the lighting of the tree by Paula Larsen, Allan Richardson and Dellana Magner, Miss Carenage, setting it ablaze with vibrant color.
The Rev. Charles Crespo of St. Anne’s Chapel delivered the blessing of the tree as the crowd stood, right hands pointed toward the magnificent tree, which was further blessed with the voices of St. Anne’s choir.
Austin Callwood, Department of Planning and Natural Resources environmental enforcement director, and long time Frenchtown community member, was the evening’s speaker.
Spicing his comments with with humor and a bit of history, Callwood told about his ties to the community and the importance of community.
"It is a wholesome place to live and raise a family," he said., while reflecting on growing up down by bayside with the fishermen.
The Voices of Love made their traditional entrance with Glen “Kwabena” Davis and his guitar leading the songs.
Then came the real highlight of the evening, at least if you were less than three feet tall and patient, which is not to say the tiny set was notably patient. When the fire truck arrived bearing Santa, a roar went up that almost drowned out the tunes of the Get Together Band.
"Wheee, he’s here, he’s heeere!" and the kiddies ambushed Santa, who finally managed, with a little help from his friends, to get the likely 40 or so kiddies lined up.
Meantime, after remarks by Odile deLyrot, the honorary French Consul, everyone enjoyed the traditional ham and sweetbread provided by the FTCO.
And, a note on brotherhood. The toys were distributed this year by the Committee for the Betterment of Carenage, working with the FTCO.
In his closing remarks, Henry Richardson said with a laugh, "We’re glad to have them take that chore off our hands. We’re happy to hand it to them."
And the crowd laughed, and the night proceeded happily along.