Things that bring us together

Christmas

By Randy Arrington, publisher

In recent years, we have all become familiar with things that push us apart. From pandemics to politics, we’ve worn masks, moved around cautiously with six-foot buffers, and suffered through mandated quarantines; we’ve argued with longtime friends, unfriended a few acquaintances on Facebook, and engaged in awkward conversations at family gatherings — and in the case of both politics and public health, most of us have been in our own “bubble.”

Well that bubble has burst over the past year, as many of us have grown tired of arguing and even more tired of bing watching Netflix. We crave human interaction, amicable relations, live entertainment, and rebuilding a sense of community. After so much pain and misery of the pandemic, maybe we simply wanted something to cheer about again.

We shared in the excitement of a state title run by both the LHS girls basketball and PCHS softball teams. We’ve come together to support non-profits, and to celebrate new opportunities. However, in large part, our desire to be reunited as a society has been most evident in the growing number of local residents attending local events. All three towns in Page County reported higher turnouts at their events this past year, in many cases exceeding pre-COVID levels.

Many were surprised at the big turnout for the Luray Christmas parade given the weather and one-day postponement. Yet some town officials stated that it was the biggest crowd they could remember seeing in many years, with nearly 100 entries in the parade. The same goes for the Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Festival and Luray’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony, which drew a reportedly record crowd. Other events in Luray, like the July 4th Family Fun Day, the Page Valley Sunflower Festival, and Trick-or-Treating on Main Street, all reportedly saw their largest crowds to date.

The Town of Stanley reported a strong and steady crowd over the course of several days during Homecoming at Ed Good Memorial Park in July, as well as large crowds for everything from their Trout Derby along the Hawksbill Creek and National Night Out at Hawksbill Park, to the Halloween Block Party and Christmas in Stanley events downtown along Main Street.

The Town of Shenandoah, with more events planned around the weekend, reported great attendance for their Memorial Day weekend activities. A new farmers market was started at Big Gem, the “Music in the Park” series expanded its schedule, and the new museum and visitor’s center has also gotten more people moving around town.

Many longstanding events, like the Page Valley Fair and the Page County Heritage Festival, reported better attendance than in previous years — a resurgence following pre-pandemic drop-offs.

As the world around us has continued to open back up for business — a sluggish two-year withdrawal from the pandemic — we have responded with enthusiastic involvement. We want to interact with others, we want a sense of normalcy, and we want to rebuild a sense of community…or maybe we just want to get out of the house (the previous excitement about those DIY home projects has grown stale).

The holiday season this year — beginning with Halloween and running through New Year’s — has brought people out of their bubble and back into the mainstream. This began in 2021 as the pandemic’s initial dose of cabin fever was getting remedied, but this year folks are acting like “What pandemic?”… when technically, the pandemic hasn’t ended yet (and has even been joined by a robust flu season and additional respiratory illnesses). We no longer fear crowds, although we could still get sick. We may still argue over politics, but it’s not quite as contentious as it as a few years ago. We may still like being at home, but we also crave going out and being among others.

Let this Christmas season remind us of those shared experiences that we couldn’t always share, those moments and memories with family and friends that we once took for granted, and the energy and excitement of being part of the crowd. Whether it’s at grandma’s house or downtown along Main Street, let’s relish in our ability to enjoy one another, to share experiences and make memories.

It wasn’t that long ago that we were all instructed to not interact with one another and remain in our bubbles — no hanging out with friends, no Super Bowl parties, no Christmas gathering at grandma’s house. So this year…be thankful for what we have, be grateful for each other, and make the most of the time spent with those you choose to surround yourself with…because you could be back in a “bubble” before you know it — be it mandated by public health concerns, or self-imposed due to ideology.

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