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Spirit of Christmas is alive and well in Haines, Alaska

Saturday night's Holly Jolly Follies in Haines, the now annual Christmas variety show (or at least annual as long as Suzy and Tod organize, direct and stage it) was perfect, if I do say so myself. I got to be in three of the acts and have spent a busy week rehearsing, and that was as much as fun as the show -- I'm still not sure how all the Fishpickers, and the banjo, fiddle, guitar, bass, electric piano, bongo drums and backup singers squeezed into the small front room of Dave's 100-year-old house between the woodstove and the sofa and table, but we did. Good thing his neighbors were on the tech crew and didn't mind.

The theater was filled a little beyond capacity, although the children were hard to count as they kept running in and out. There were about 20 pint-sized angel ballerinas who starred in the Nativity play (baby Jesus was played by a real infant) and Holly (how perfect is even her name?) plucked a real harp too, and sang "Angels We Have Heard on High" as the whole tableau filled the stage -- the holy family, all those twirling angels with wire and white feather halos, shepherds, kings, a curly-horned ram and little cow.

Then the homeless dog holy family (Cocoa and Spot in large plush-headed dog suits and a real puppy surprise) were welcomed at the Haines Animal Rescue Kennel and adopted Christmas morning by Goldie, Frank and Murray Wiseman. Everyone laughed at Christy's Dr. Phil as Santa in her version of "The Night before Christmas," and Kid Burfl's song poking fun of our inability to govern ourselves in a tune that debuted two years ago at the Follies and is still true today -- (" 'Do I Hear What I Hear?' the interim manager said to the interim police chief ...") The little prima ballerina who danced like a sugar plum, the darling child puppeteer, the candle dancing ladies (in the dark, holding fish bowls with candles in them) and the high school comedians all wowed us. The Fishpickers rocked Jingle Bells. The second verse took some learning -- "A day or two ago, I thought I'd take a ride, and soon Miss Fanny Bright, was seated by my side. The horse was lean and lank, misfortune seemed his lot, he got into a drifted bank and then we got upsot!" "Upsot" is my new favorite word.

The fire chief said we couldn't pass candles to the whole crowd in the finale as Suzy had planned, so instead the women's choir held them, as we sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth." In this little corner of the planet, for that moment anyway, there really was. Nancy was too busy so Debra directed the choir, insisting we make the song mean something, not just be a pretty tune. (In one rehearsal the singers got a little testy about that, especially the altos who were struggling with the high notes.) But right on cue, inspired perhaps by all those little angels and a couple of goofy dog costumes, our neighbors and friends all gathered for holiday cheer. We hit all the right notes as we sang with our heads and our hearts, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."

Heather Lende is a writer who lives in Haines. This piece was first published at her blog, www.heatherlende.com.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Heather Lende

Heather Lende is the author of "If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name: News From Small-Town Alaska." To contact Heather or read her new blog, The News From Small-Town Alaska, visit www.heatherlende.com.

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