The Tonto Natural Bridge may not jump into your mind as a Christmas tradition -- but volunteers -- Larry and Linda Johnson are hoping to change your mind. The pair has planned holiday activities for the next two weekends. The fun takes place in the dining hall of the Tonto Natural Bridge Hotel. At 2 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 4 and Sunday Dec. 12, the pair will become reenactors, living the lives of David and Lillias Goodfellow, the couple who created a respectable life amidst the wilds of Arizona.
Audience members will learn history and legend as the Goodfellows reminisce about days gone by.
On Sunday Dec 5 at 2 p.m. the Johnsons will lead an old-fashioned sing-a-long. And for Saturday Dec. 11 the Shepherd of the Pines Church Choir will travel the winding road to perform for visitors. A new tradition born of our very own history and you are invited to be a part of the heritage.
Christmas tree lighting and auction
After you visit the bridge and your Christmas spirits are high, it's time to take in another annual Pine-Strawberry tradition.
The annual Christmas tree lighting and auction is planned for Saturday, Dec. 4 in the Cultural Hall at the Community Center.
Santa's arrival and the lighting of the community Christmas tree in front of the Community Center kick off the event at 4:30 p.m., then the auction begins inside at 5 p.m, as live pine trees decorated by students and staff of Pine School will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
There will be carolers and a special guest from up north. Bring your cameras to this popular and entertaining event.
As a special treat the Pine-Strawberry Arts and Craft Guild will be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday with free refreshments during the tree lighting and auction. This is their way to say "thank you" to the community for the support you have shown all year long.
After the lighting a tour of town businesses is planned. Shopkeepers have spent hours and hours decorating our main streets. The shops will have their lights on and their best foot out as Christmas envelops us all. It's here -- just 21 more shopping days left and of course they hope you will shop till you drop right here at home.
Kids take center stage
One of the best Christmas traditions ever is an evening's entertainment by the children of our town. At 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday Dec. 7, students from preschool through fifth-grade will take center stage in the school gym.
Performing old favorites in new ways -- this show never fails to bring laughter and tears to the audience.
Singing, playing and signing -- this year's extravaganza will add several pages to your holiday memory book.
Make it a date with someone special -- you don't even have to have kids in school to be able to appreciate the shiny young faces that may sing slightly off key.
A strong showing will encourage and support -- everyone is welcome, and it is absolutely free.
If by chance you can't make it for this Christmas program, there will be a Christmas Concert production -- also performed by Pine-Strawberry students at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14.
Yet another chance to celebrate a holiday tradition with someone special and support our youth.
The Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce is once again sponsoring a Residential Christmas Decorating Contest.
To enter -- you must have your home decorated by Friday, Dec. 10. You also need to write down your name, address, subdivision, city and phone number and mail it to HCR 1 Box 676, Strawberry, AZ 85544.
Judging will start at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10.
If you have any questions, you can call Rose Harper at 476-3000 or Dianne Mitchell at 476-2766.
Even if you do not enter the contest, get in the holiday spirit and make our community standout. If your home is decorated, please leave the lights on each night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. so all of us can enjoy them.
The white envelope
Now, before you are done with this week's news -- I have a rerun from last year. It was so well received then, that I am making it a traditional addition to my column.
Before you worry too much about getting just the right gift for so-and-so. Stop and think about the white envelope and the difference it might make.
There once was a harried husband, tired of all the commercial gift-giving that December has come to represent. He had come to hate it, and the fact that it stole from the real meaning of Christmas.
One year his wife decided to abandon the usual gifts for her husband, and search for something special -- just for him. The idea came to her at a wrestling match.
The couple's 12-year-old son was in junior-level wrestling and competing against a poverty level team in a non-league match sponsored by an inner-city church. The opposing rag-tag team wore ragged sneakers and had no helmets for their matches. It was a sharp contrast to the young men in gold and blue uniforms, brand-spanking new wrestling shoes and protective headgear.
The inner city team lost every single match. Each boy got up from the mat and strutted back to his place, carrying with him a tough street pride that could not -- would not -- acknowledge defeat.
Having coached all manner of youth sports, her husband shook his head, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them."
And there came the idea. His wife spent the afternoon at a local sporting goods store buying an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes. They were sent to the inner-city church anonymously.
On Christmas Eve she placed a simple white envelope on the tree containing a simple note explaining what she had done and that this was his gift from her. His smile out-shone the Christmas tree, and for each year after the tradition became steadfast in their home.
One year she sent a group of mentally handicapped children to a hockey game, another a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground.
The plain white envelope became the highlight of Christmas morning. It was saved for last, and the children would stand with eager anticipation for Dad to open the simple present and read its contents.
The children grew and the tradition continued -- but the story did not end there.
You see -- her husband was lost to the all-too-familiar cancer. When Christmas rolled around, well, you can imagine the grief that the family felt. But Christmas Eve found her placing another envelope on the tree.
In the morning three more envelopes joined the first among the branches of the family Christmas tree.
Unknown to each other, each of the three children had placed an envelope -- a gift of love -- on the tree for their Dad. So the tradition grows. And will grow again as these three children become parents and their children eagerly wait to hear the contents of a simple white envelope on Christmas morning.
May we all remember the true meaning of Christmas, today and always.