The holidays reach a climax today as many La Plata County residents gather with family and friends to enjoy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day festivities.
Four weeks of anticipation have led to this moment. And one of my favorite activities in the build up is the Rotary Club of Durango’s Christmas party.
The event was held Dec. 16 in the Pullman Room of the Strater Hotel. President Terry Swan served as master of ceremonies, and his wife, Dinah, had either elf or Vanna White duties, depending on who you asked.
My father, Charlie Butler, was a member of the club for more than 30 years, and except for a couple of years when I was living outside the country, I have attended the party for 45 years.
Rod Barker, though, has me beat. His grandfather, Earl Barker Sr., was a member for a short time, and his father, Earl Barker Jr., was a member for almost five decades. Rod, a member for 31 years, announced that this was his 55th year attending the party, and his daughter, Allison, has got to be a more than 20-year attendee herself. Wow!
It was great to have some of the Ernie and Peryl Schaaf clan on hand. They didn’t come last year, as Ernie had just died, but this year, three generations attended. We all grew up together at the party, in an age when “little girls give Santa a hug, and little boys shake his hand.” It’s mostly hugs these days.
Santa threw in a new wrinkle in 2014, asking each recipient if he or she been good this year. More than a few kids had to think for a minute on that one.
I propose a new idea for next year. I think Santa should have a list and be checking it to see “who’s been naughty or nice.” A little worry isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Little Benjamin “The Bruiser” Andrea, 5, who, a couple of years ago wasn’t too sure about this guy in a red suit, was all-in this year, not only accepting his own gift with elan but escorting his father, Dr. Bruce Andrea, up to get his. (Mom, Andrea Mull, is a member.)
Natalie Obleton, daughter of member Natambu Obleton and his wife, Jessica, drew the biggest laugh of the evening. Her gift didn’t have a name on it, but she knew it was hers because “it has the same wrapping paper as my brother’s” she said, using solid deductive reasoning.
One change over the years has been that this used to be strictly a father/child event – except for a few forward-thinking clubs in California and Washington, women weren’t admitted as members to Rotary until 1987 – so moms stayed home. We got to watch the comedy of errors as dads tried to juggle little kids who were all dressed up, over-excited and on a sugar high. Too fun.
Fathers weren’t so hands-on in those days. (Yikes, does that make me sound like an old fogey?) But not only are they more capable of dealing with their offspring, it tends to be the whole family who comes now.
The evening started with a delicious buffet dinner, including a mini-salad bar, sautéed vegetables, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, gravy and salmon in citrus-lime sauce. A dessert buffet included pecan pie, cake and chocolate mousse.
Chef Arnold “Safari” Ngumbao and his crew took good care of everyone. Everything was also beautifully decorated and festive, including glitzy miniature white Christmas trees and poinsettias.
The party wouldn’t be complete without some singing with song leader Don Mapel. A former member of the club, he’s been coerced into coming back every year to serve in this role. (And the funny part is, he’s not much of a singer himself. All that talent resides in his wife, Sandra, and daughter, Meredith Mapel.) But he’s got great energy, and that keeps the group hopping and engaged.
Between having all the kids come up and sing “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer” and the traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas,” with each table responsible for a day, the evening ended on a high-spirited, if not on key, note. The “partridge in a pear tree table” may have been the best table we’ve had at this party in my experience. Beautiful voices, and it was a pleasure for them to be assigned the day that is sung the most.
Thanks for another wonderful evening.
Will Santa bring these birthday celebrants a little something extra in his sack? Here’s hoping so for Reg Graham, Greg Wessman, Jim Marentette, Wendy Krull, Bob Kunkel, Mary Sieger, Bill Thurman, Ava Hobby, Maria Meyer, Mike Somrak, Mike Ford, TJ Trump, Patrick Armijo, Chase Olivarius-McAllister and Karolann Latimer.
Whether you’re working over the holidays (as is yours truly), skiing, sledding, drinking hot buttered rum or playing with grandchildren, here’s wishing all my readers light at this darkest time of the year.
Ryan and Krystal Phelps are grabbing a kiss or two under the mistletoe for their anniversary.