First Friday night in December and the spirit of the holidays was rushing toward me as if I were transfixed to the railroad tracks, staring into the large bright light bearing down on me.
The time was 5:45 pm and I was losing my battle to be in two places at once. This was the night that the Arts Council’s Team prepares the Hickman County Elementary School for the annual Arts, Craft & Book Fair on Saturday.
This was also the same night that the Chamber of Commerce was holding the first annual “Parade of Lights” Christmas Parade. The Parade started at 6:00 pm. All along the parade route, the wave of humanity was standing 40 to 50 deep. Each person ignored the cold wind blowing across the downtown streets. Everyone standing in line came with warmth in their hearts as this event truly touched a feeling of happiness and joy in celebration the fact of family and community.
My team completed the next day’s preparation for the Arts Fair at 6:40 pm. Quickly, I jumped into the car and headed for downtown, hoping to see part of the parade. It was this moment that I fully appreciated the simplicity and form of earlier city planners in designing the street system of Clinton.
All streets lead to and from the Court House Square.
No matter what direction or route I tried to follow toward the downtown, I was blocked in my efforts. The reality of the moment was staggering. Clinton, Ky. a small community in far western Kentucky was being shut down because of too many people coming to town for the Christmas Parade.
Down Clay Street. Up Beelerton Hill. Along Highway 51. Back up Jefferson and Washington Streets. Hundreds of automobiles, filled with young and old, stood perfectly still in the afterglow of Christmas Parade floats lights.
Gridlock! No one was moving. The entire town, US Highway 51 and State Highway 58 were shut down with bumper to bumper cars parked in long lines. Yet, the night was filled with the happy sounds of children singing, mothers and families walking to their cars in parking lots behind churches and banks.
Even in the waiting cars, people smile and laughter drifted up and down the long lines of parked cars. The entire town had been taken over with the good feeling of traditional Christmas spirit.
Finally, Tom Dixon, one of Clinton’s policemen, took control of the situation. He stood in the middle of the intersection of Highways 51 and 58. This was the exact spot I was trying to move through. Arms moving fast, Tom controlled the evening mad rush with a new flashlight. Within minutes of his performance as the master conductor in this very rural symphony of happy motorists, the gridlock started to give up its lock on the town.
By 7:30 pm the night air was returning to normal. Clinton and its guests were moving on to the pleasures, chores and duties of a Friday night. Small town life was assuming its role of family traditions. And the traffic found other places to be. The night became once more a small town night, with stars overhead marking the darkness and poking the shadows along the alleys.