A small town Christmas celebration Woody Guthrie would have loved

 

OKEMAH, OKLAHOMA -- As the last light of a December afternoon fades in downtown Okemah, a few lights stay on in Woody Guthrie's hometown.

People gather on an empty lot, a few hundred maybe, but a pretty good cross-section of 'Whoville' or 'Whereville', Oklahoma.

The mayor has the microphone warmed up.

The peanut brittle is ready to sell.

The kids from the Mennonite school up in Boley sing a few songs as townspeople arrive.

Organizer Peggy Ann Combs has a whole schedule of performers and activities lined up for the evening.

"We try to highlight, and connect, and bring an inspiration of the Christmas spirit to everybody," she says.

You can drop into just about any town in Oklahoma this time of year and you'll see a parade or a party where everyone is invited.

Each is unique for different reasons.

For instance, where else in the world could you possibly go to hear Silent Night performed in both the original German, and then, a few minutes later, in the Muscogee Creek language?

The evening culminates in a tree lighting ceremony.

Peggy Ann had the famous Rockefeller Center event in mind even thought hers was a little smaller.

Okemah can't muster the crowd New York brings or the millions who watch on TV.

But ask yourself which one Norman Rockwell might have picked, or Woody Guthrie, or me for that matter.

The Christmas spirit might just shine brightest when there aren't so many blinding lights to distract us.

All we need is a few to see the one that's most important.

Peggy Ann Combs is the director of the new Okemah Arts Center.

She and a team of volunteers spent three months putting Thursday night's celebration together.