Each year during the holiday season, the city of Cresco lights itself up like the Vegas Strip. Some of it is almost as gaudy as the display on Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. One year there was a giant, three-story Christmas stocking hung from a "downtown" building. The town leaders hoped it would be the world's largest Christmas stocking. Representatives of the Guinness Book of World Records were scheduled to be on hand to verify the record. (Supposedly, it was going to look really good in the Chamber of Commerce brochure. Uuuuuuuuh-huh. Right up there with the largest ball of twine - a virtual magnet for drawing quality, long-term commerce to town.)
There is always a huge parade on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Late in the afternoon, a procession is held where young school children sing carols as they make their way toward the courthouse square for the official lighting of the gaudiness. For several years, my mother has been in charge of a luminary display along Main Street on the way to the square. In art classes, these same young carolers take empty plastic milk jugs and paint holiday symbols and designs on them. They cut a hole in the top of each jug and a place a candle inside to create the luminary. The problem is that the candles tend to fall or blow over. The solution is to put 3 or 4 inches of sand in the bottom of the jug to act as a sturdy candle holder. This requires a bit of work because we¹re talking about a route of a couple city blocks with luminaries on both sides of the street. That takes a lot of jugs and a lot of shoveling sand.
In the year of the enormous Christmas stocking, help was supposed to arrive in the form of some troubled youths. It seems those misguided souls needed to perform some community service to satisfy a debt to society. They had been sentenced to shoveling sand...here at the farm where the billion milk jugs were stored. I wasn't sure if I liked the idea of working with convicts and hardened criminals. I was afraid they would show up in orange jumpsuits and leg irons, with their own ornery old straw boss shouting orders and wielding a shotgun.
That year, Cresco's very own Santa¹s Holiday Parade was like a sick dog's nose - cold and wet! It started to rain about 9:30 and the parade didn't start until 11:00. I got to be an assistant transportation director. I hauled people around on my utility vehicle and ot the floats in their proper position. I got to cruise up and down the streets of Cresco and tell people where to go and what they could do with their floats. As the rain and cold wore on, I was tempted to be a little bit more frank and tell them exactly WHAT they could do with them and suggest a place for them to go. I was a good little elf and resisted the temptation. Santa owes me one.
At the end of the night, there was no word on the status of the world's largest Christmas stocking. I don't know if it was big enough for the Guinness folks or not. Being unfurled in the rain all day may have caused it to shrink to the point of disqualification.
Alas, the rain got worse as the day went on and the luminary celebration was cancelled. The convicts in the orange jumpsuits never showed up to repay their debt to society, either. They were all ready to come out when their parents decided that they needed their help at home to shovel snow. Here I spent the year drinking all that milk out of all those jugs and all I had to show for it were incredibly strong bones and teeth.
This year I decided to go ahead and have my own luminary display. If you look off to the southeast of Cresco and see a brilliant glow on the horizon some night, it will be me. Thousands of milk jugs with candles in them will be lighting up the night sky. I'll be the one sitting in the middle of the sand pile in an orange jumpsuit...waiting for the Guinness people to show up.