Carolers reminisce singing at Willis Park

Published 4:00 pm Friday, December 23, 2016

For many families in Bainbridge, the Concert in the Park on Christmas Eve is an annual tradition. When the clock strikes 6 p.m. at Willis Park, downtown is filled with joyous music from the Bainbridge Community Band and hundreds of voices singing together.

Some people can say they’ve been to many of the concerts, some people can say they have only been to a handful.
But there are some that haven’t missed a single one since it started 41 years ago in 1976.

“It’s the tradition,” said Roslyn Palmer, who can remember closing up shop at Jake’s Pawn Shop on Water Street and heading to the square for the first Christmas Concert. “I especially love seeing the people coming from out of town. I see them once a year and I look forward to it. It’s very special.”

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Palmer has stuck with the Christmas Concert through thick and thin with her husband, Jack, and their daughter, Mykla. She remembers it pouring down rain one year and moving the concert to the firehouse. She didn’t sing inside where it was dry, though, because she gave the space to visitors from out of town.

Another year, it was so cold that the instruments were sticking to the lips of those in the Community Band. It was too cold to play the full concert, but she does remember the band was invited to Dick Walker’s bakery for hot chocolate to warm up their frozen mouths.

It’s also been at the Bainbridge Coliseum a couple times, but nothing compares to it being held in Willis Park.
“The atmosphere at the square is just unique,” Palmer said. “I’m so glad we still have it. I hope it is something future generations have, because it is something worth hanging on to.”

Harold and Gloria Coppinger are another couple that have been to every concert over the past 41 years. To them, it’s a tradition that makes them proud of where they live.

“One reason we like to go is we see old friends there that we don’t see other times of the year,” Gloria said. “We have traditions, and this is one of them.”

Though he hasn’t been to every concert since it started, Daniel Dunlap, 28, has been to every once since he was born.

“The main thing is it has always been a tradition with my family, ever since I was little,” Dunlap said. “Now looking back, it sort of keeps me connected with where I came from. You get to see folks you knew growing up. Just folks from the community.”

Dunlap even made it to the concert when he had chicken pox in the fifth grade.

One of his favorite memories is during the song Jingle Bells, people jingling their keys along to the music.

The concert starts at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, in Willis Park. Anyone is welcome to attend.