By Dale Martin, City Manager
From the time that I first visited Fernandina Beach as a candidate for the city manager position over seven years ago, I have found this community to be incredibly welcoming. People are friendly and engaging, neighbors are helpful, and churches and charities are generous. I have enjoyed the many conversations and blessings that are part of Fernandina Beach.
I assume that many of you enjoy hosting family and friends when they visit Fernandina Beach. It was wonderful to share the sunrises and sunsets, the local businesses, the incredible restaurants, and the natural beauty of our community. As is often said, we get to live here.
As the full force of the holiday season hits us, we have a variety of upcoming community events. The Black Friday Downtown Pajama Party today. The Christmas tree lighting tomorrow: the Holiday Craft Fair (Atlantic Recreation Center) and the Lighted Holiday parade on December 3 (sponsored by America’s Youth), Dickens on Centre (December 9-11; Tourist Development Council); another Main Beach Movie Night (December 16; Youth Advisory Council); and as the year concludes, Light Up Amelia’s wonderful Shrimp Drop on New Year’s Eve.
Some local residents are like me this Christmas, though: I don’t expect any family or friends due to other holiday commitments. Plenty of family live elsewhere and travel over the holidays can be stressful and expensive (and these days, air travel is becoming more unreliable). That lack of visitors is a little disappointing because I enjoy the social engagement and camaraderie of the holidays: it is a time to share and enjoy the goodness of all with others.
But just because some of us don’t have family visiting, why does that mean we can’t share the joy and excitement of the season with others?
Four years ago, I hosted an inaugural Community Christmas Potluck Dinner at the First Presbyterian Church. It was an immediate success, drawing dozens of residents, families, and friends. In 2019, I moved the dinner to the Nassau County Council on Aging facility – more spacious kitchen and dining facilities. In 2020, the pandemic prevented the dinner, and last year, I was simply unable to coordinate the effort.
But this year, let’s do it again.
You are cordially invited to the Community Christmas Dinner at the Nassau County Council on Aging (thank you again, Ms. Ancrum and Ms. Dawkins), 1901 Island Walk Way, Fernandina Beach, on Christmas Day (Sunday, December 25) from 2 p.m. through 5 p.m. Dinner will be available from 2:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to anyone and everyone.
As with traditional potluck dinners, you are encouraged to bring a dish to pass – make it a family favorite side dish or dessert (if possible, please bring copies of those recipes to share with others). You are also welcomed to come without a dish – adding to the dinner with your participation is appreciated. Like the previous dinners, I’ll coordinate several main courses myself or through generous donations of others. You will need to bring your own tableware and beverage.
The first event in 2018 was somewhat hastily thrown together, but the successive events have become better organized; nonetheless, the relative “spontaneity” of gathering is a joyous celebration. At the conclusion of the dinner, the remaining food is shared with the Salvation Army and Hope House.
After staggering through the divisive rhetoric of another political season (and preparing for the two-year barrage leading to the 2024 elections), we need to recognize our deeper commonalities in this community rather than the differences exacerbated by others. Our small local community is truly a beautiful place. We often forget that. That weekly walk on the beach becomes monthly or seasonal. The wonder of a glorious sunrise and the peacefulness of the sunset becomes more and more rare. The time with friends succumbs to the grind of work and routine. Why?
Everyone knows that those moments can be lost and that last moment is not recognized as the “last” until it is too late. Let’s celebrate together on Christmas Day, sharing the joy and the blessings of friendship and community.
Community Christmas Dinner – Nassau County Council on Aging, 1901 Island Walk Way; December 25, 2-5 p.m. Bring a dish to share and your tableware.
I look forward to greeting you next month at dinner on Christmas Day.
This is so fantastic, esp for folks who don’t have anywhere or anyone to go to……love it!!
Great to see the return of the community potluck dinner after its absence. Thanks Dale for your efforts to originate and then restart this event.