Holidays Are Better Here: Jay County & Decatur (VIDEO)

By Eric Olson - 21Alive
By Jason Meyers - 21Alive
By Emma Koch - 21Alive

December 11, 2013 Updated Dec 11, 2013 at 5:59 PM EST

INDIANA (21Alive) -- Down in Jay County, at Portland's Harmony Café, a community Christmas present is being wrapped.

Actress, singer, director Linda Priest Rodden is finessing a remarkable production of 'A Christmas Carol' from a talented band of citizen thespians. This isn't your average 'Let's Put On A Show' community play. Many of these performers are veterans of Jay County's Bearcreek Farms Dinner Theatre that closed last summer. Staging this show, they tell us, is a way of filling a void.

All of these actors have day jobs, nurse, band director, lawyer, student. Ron Freeman, who plays Old Fezziwig, owns a string of convenience stores.

And that's the other reason these folks are giving their time freely to put on this show this holiday season, to say thank you to their friends and neighbors who support the arts, support creativity and performance. When folks sit down at the Harmony Café to watch this classic Christmas tale they'll hear Scrooge rail and rage, listen as the ghosts teach their lessons, see little Tiny Tim face life's toughest challenges and they'll be receiving a priceless gift from some talented and generous neighbors.

Decatur is building that sense of community with their own holiday tradition.

The first Sunday in December marked the fifteenth year Decatur has come together for its holiday celebration. It starts in the afternoon with a cookie decorating contest at Marko's on Second. Thirty winners took home prizes to make more cookies and practice for next year.

Later in the evening, families came out in droves for a multitude of activities beginning with a tree lighting ceremony in the square.

"I think it brings the community together as a unit. And that's what we strive for is to make it... family and friends, just a good time so they can reflect on the coming season," Cathee Graves said.

To keep warm, Marko's provided some potato soup while The Java Bean sold hot chocolate. Both were hot commodities. Better yet, all of the money collected went to a great, local cause.

"All the monies that we donate... collect tonight are going to be donated to the food bank. And then some of it will go for next year's lighting. We've been asked to put lights on a second pine tree up here. So hopefully we can with all the fundraising we do, we can do that," Graves said.

This year, only one of the trees was decorated, but organizers hope there will be two festive trees next December. And if all goes as planned, those in attendance will once again be serenaded with Christmas music. And every child in attendance will continue to be entered into a drawing for a chance to win an early Christmas present. Activities like this one bring families together, building a better sense of community, making the holidays a little better here.




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