December 13, 2019
Although I am likely and appropriately identified as the City Manager in the byline of this column, please recognize that, for this instance, I am not officially representing the City of Fernandina Beach. This is a personal effort not officially endorsed as a City event.
Last year, my wife, Lisa, and I had no family planning to visit over the Christmas holidays. With five daughters (and associated spouses and boyfriends and now a grandchild), extended family gatherings are becoming more and more rare (and cherished). The November and December holidays should be festive celebrations of family and friends.
With no family, though, we invited “friends” to an inaugural Community Christmas dinner. Again, this was not a City or church event (the dinner was held at the First Presbyterian Church last year), but simply a personal effort to share the joys and blessings of the holidays with others. Although it was cobbled together with minimal preparation and notice (my first public announcement of last year’s event was not until Dec 21!), it was a remarkable success with about eighty people participating. Wow, did we have a lot of good food!
Everyone (and I mean everyone) is hereby invited to the Second Annual Community Christmas Dinner.
The dinner will be held at the Nassau County Council on Aging Life Center (1901 Island Walk Way; located between McDonald’s on 8th Street and Zaxby’s on 14th Street). I would like to thank Nassau County Council on Aging Executive Director Ms. Janice Ancrum for the use of the facility (if you have not had the opportunity to visit this wonderful community asset, the dinner gives you a reason to visit). We will begin to prepare for the dinner at 2:00 PM, with the traditional potluck dinner being available from 2:30 PM until 4:30 PM (or later if need be).
Mr. Steve Murphy, General Manager of the Fernandina Beach Golf Course, has received three turkeys donated by US Foods (the food supplier for the Golf Course). Lisa and I will likely prepare a sizeable ham. Those meats should be enough for the main course, although additional efforts are welcome (if you wish to contribute a main course, please let me know [[email protected]] so that we’re not overwhelmed with main courses). Mr. Murphy has also received a donation of water and Coke from Coca-Cola so some beverages will be available. We are working to have coffee and tea also available.
Guests are requested to bring a side dish or dessert to share, but such a contribution is not required. Please, if circumstances prevent you or your family from offering additional food, that does not mean you are not welcome at this community table. It is, in fact, those members of our community that we most want to welcome.
If you do bring a dish, please label your dish so that it may be returned to you if it is left at the dinner. If you have a wonderfully delectable recipe that you’d be willing to share, perhaps bring a small notecard with your name to place by the dish so that others know whom to contact. Some items often overlooked last year were some simple things (like rolls and butter), so don’t feel the need to get culinary creative (although nearly all the desserts were over-the-top).
Please bring your own table service and settings (although, again, I will have supplies for those without service or settings). If you prefer a beverage other than the donated water or Coke, please bring your favorite beverage, but no alcohol is permitted.
If you are not able to attend, but wish to offer a food or monetary contribution, please contact me. Food and contributions from last year’s event were graciously donated to The Salvation Army Hope House. I expect any surplus will be similarly donated this year, but I want to encourage everyone to join us for the meal itself and not wait: leftover food is fine; leftover people, definitely not.
I regret not having a voluntary guest register to sign last year to document the beginnings of this tradition, but I will have something to sign this year, mainly just to see how the event grows (hopefully) each year.
Let me end with the same closing comments from last year’s invitation:
I have no idea how this will play out- it could be an epic failure with no one coming and leaving a few of us with plenty of leftovers or it could be problematic because so many attend that we struggle to provide sufficient food. Guess what- who cares? At the end of the evening, we’ll probably have met a few new friends, help clean up the facility, thank those who attended, laugh with everyone, and start thinking how to do it again next year. We’ll then go to work the next day, no worse for the wear, probably slightly poorer, but immensely richer in spirit.
I believe that we need to celebrate more. Despite the divisions in Washington and the tensions in Tallahassee (2019: and getting worse), our small local community is truly a beautiful place. We often forget that. That weekly walk on the beach becomes monthly or seasonal. The awe of a glorious sunrise 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.