Christmas is a special time of year. It is full of joy with community events, family gatherings, and religious celebration. It is also full of tradition with the beauty of decorations in our homes and lights in our neighborhoods, with the fun that comes from the first snow (no matter how fleeting), and with the opportunity to give back to others so all may feel the peace and warmth of the holiday season. What really makes Meridian special during this time of year is our people and our businesses who step up and lead so others may enjoy.
It starts with our Parks and Recreation Department going above and beyond with the many events that launched Christmas in Meridian. This kicks off with one of my all-time favorite events, the Meridian Winter Lights Parade and tree lighting. We had over 30 floats and Juli Bokenkamp, leader of our community garden in Kleiner Park for the last 9 years, was the Grand Marshal. This year’s large Christmas tree in Generations Plaza was graciously donated by Bill and Christine Donnell. But none of this would have been possible without the volunteers, employees, businesses, and groups who entered floats, and the crowd who showed up to enjoy it all.
Back this year was the Meridian Symphony Orchestra with their holiday performance of Merry, Merry Meridian. This dynamic 70-piece orchestra is made up of dedicated, talented individuals who create a magical experience filled with the wonder and joy of the season.
Then we have businesses like Scentsy who have donned lights on their grounds and made it a festive place for the community to experience at their convenience. From their tunnel of lights, to the large electronic Christmas tree, the Scentsy Commons are a spectacle to enjoy at night. There are many businesses downtown that are also decorated for the Downtown Decorating Contest.
Not to be outdone, our residents have stepped up with their seasonal community light displays across Meridian. There is nothing quite like enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, driving around Meridian with family, playing Christmas music, and seeing homes decorated. You can also attend and tune-in to Magic 97.9 this evening for the 2nd Annual Idaho Community Christmas Sing-Along, at the Rocky Mountain High School parking lot. Thank you to Diane Bevan for helping to organize this event.
Christmas can also be a time of need and hope for many, particularly with food insecurity. This last weekend, Shannon Smuthwaite and Meridian’s interfaith community leaders held the fourth annual drive-through food drive. Food donated to this event was given to the Meridian Food Bank and I encourage you to keep that momentum going. The Meridian Food Bank is looking for non-perishable food items. Some specific needs this time of year include black olives, cranberry sauce, chicken broth, and stuffing mix. More food donation lists can be found here.
Meridian City Council and I visited Nate Shelman with KBOI, who was broadcasting from Sportsman’s Warehouse parking lot for Idaho’s Largest Toy Drive where they were collecting Toys for Tots. Our community stepped up in a big way as 3 semi-trailers full of toys were loaded up during this 10-day event. Additionally, each Meridian fire station had a collection bin for new toys for the Toys for Tots campaign.
Another way to give back this holiday season is to participate in RandyB Funk’s 8th annual S.O.S. Service Drive. The Meridian Fire Department is working with RandyB and collecting new socks which will be donated to the River of Life Men’s Shelter and City Light Home for Women and Children. Socks are being collected until December 22 if you would like to help meet this need for the community.
Our Meridian police partnered with neighboring law enforcement for the annual Shop with a Cop. By spending the day with one of our law enforcement officers, 75 kids had the opportunity to pick any toiletries and clothing they may need. Although we want these kids to have a fun holiday experience with presents, ultimately necessities are the top priority.
As I mentioned before, this is all because of our people. While I mentioned a few by name, I know that each of these events and so many more are being done by many others. You remain our greatest asset for making Christmas special for one another. Because of you, I am proud to be Meridian’s Mayor, and I am sincerely honored to serve. With the new year approaching, may we continue to be a compassionate place that fosters goodwill and generosity toward those in need.
God bless and Merry Christmas.