Good ideas always come from a team. This team happened to be the ICC Parish Council, specifically Darah Harrison. "It's been a long time since we've all gotten together for a social event!" And from that statement, we were off and running. Father Klein pointed out that the Holy Day of Obligation dedicated to our church's namesake was coming up on Saturday, December 8, "The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary." What a great time to get together in a social setting, but also one with meaning. We didn't want to do a Christmas theme which would detract from honoring our namesake, so we decided to do a simple winter theme. Ideas started flowing. Steve suggested that we could borrow the burlap table runners that the Altar Society uses for their Fall Luncheon, and add some pine cones. Then someone suggested we bring over the Christmas trees, but we would just use them as regular, lighted trees with no ornaments. A simple setting for a great evening of camaraderie. Then Darah came up with another great idea: "Why don't we get some of the kids together to put together a little program to entertain the attendees after dinner?" Darah then took on the task of getting the kids together, writing the performance and recruiting the performers.
The event and date (Sunday, December 9) were announced, and all of the behind-the-scenes planning began. But instead of the experienced Altar Society, this event was going to be planned and hosted by the 6 members of the Parish Council, plus Steve and Fr. Klein. That is why we decided not to place comment cards on the tables since this would be our first go at it! Steve outlined various tasks that would need to be accomplished before the event, which different Council members volunteered to do. The set-up/decoration day was set for Saturday, the day before the event. Then we hit our first snag. Knowing that we needed a large number of pine cones, Steve shopped online to find a good deal. Steve was able to purchase 200 pine cones for a very reasonable price and the great thing is that they could be easily stored and used in subsequent years, as we are planning on this being an annual event. When the pine cones didn't arrive as expected, Steve went on the seller's website and the FedEx website and both showed that the pine cones were scheduled to be delivered not on Friday or Saturday latest as promised by the seller, but MONDAY, one day too late. We needed to come up with something we could get in large quantity, in one day, that wouldn't break the bank. Steve volunteered to go to Walmart to see what he could find, needing something for 30 tables. He finally decided on silver tinsel garlands that could be placed down the middle of the burlap runners. The second problem cropped up when we found the burlap runners. We remembered them to be a standard. neutral-tan burlap, but they turned out to be more burnt orange and that definitely didn't say "winter." So we decided to nix the burlap runners and just put the garlands down the center of the tables. Again, the garlands were reasonably priced and can be used annually. So now all Steve wants for next year is to order (way ahead of time) some blue burlap table runners, which will be a great background for the silver garlands and pine cones that we already have.
We decided to divide the south rooms, so the kids could go to play or to watch Christmas-themed shows. Miller's of Claflin generously donated a nice 8 x 8 carpet remnant for the small ones to sit on to play and Darah blew up blue balloons which proved to be a big hit. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to watch shows in the theater that had been set up, but it was still a good idea (said Steve, who came up with it haha).
Now we were ready! In the fall, Father had purchased a blue spruce tree and had it planted, not knowing that it would become a focal point for the beginning of the event. At 6 pm when it was time to commence, Father had everyone gather outside in a circle around our new tree, which was strung with blue lights but was not on yet. Father said a prayer honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary and as instructed, at the end of the prayer, the lights to the tree were turned on. Father then led the attendees in a verse of "Immaculate Mary" and then all went inside to start lining up for the bountiful buffet of delicious offerings, prepared by our parishioners. As always, there was plenty of entrees, sides, salads, and desserts, and the Parish Council provided iced tea, hot coffee, and ice water. For once, the PSR teenagers got to sit, relax and enjoy their dinner, instead of bussing trays and refilling drinks, which was done by the Council members. Steve was a little miffed that because he waited until the last tray had been bussed before he went through the buffet line, and he was accused of going for a whole plate of seconds! Was that a hint to not spend so much time at the dessert table trying to make a decision?
After the meal, Darah's "ICC Pageant Performers" (a name casually given to them by Steve, but Darah's may have a different name picked out for next year - yes Darah, see what happens when you do such a good job … you get asked to do it again the next year). And to top it off, there was a surprise visit by Santa, who gave out candy canes to kids of all ages. You're never too old to believe!
-Written by Steve Schachle