Tuesday, December 14, 1999

Old-fashioned holiday spirit in local village

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To be totally frank, I'll admit the weather could have been nicer. But that was the only thing.

        The people were as nice as they could be.

        It took approximately 57 minutes to drive the 3 miles down Amelia's Main Street last Sunday. I was riding in the back seat of a convertible like the prom queen I never was. Mayor Mark Menz rode shotgun, wearing a Santa ball cap. Dave Dietrich drove. Orders from his mom.

        Elaine Dietrich has been chairwoman of Amelia's Christmas parade every one of its 19 years, and she has a job for everyone in her family. Son Doug is a judge. So is her granddaughter. Her husband, Tony, painted the signs for the cars.

        If I could have heard the murmurs from the crowd over the noise of the fire engines and the music of the Amelia High School band, I feel sure that all along the parade route, people were saying the same thing.

        Boy, is it cold.

        Jeez, it's damp.

        Who is that red-nosed woman riding with Dave and Mark in the grand marshal's car?

Unbearably prissy
        In years past, everybody's favorite Reds' broadcaster, Joe Nuxhall, led the procession. So has television personality and columnist Nick Clooney and WLW-AM's Gilbert Gnarley/Earl Pitts/Gary Burbank. This year it was totally unrecognizable me.

        In the rain.

        To have left the top up on the white Crysler LeBaron would have been unbearably prissy. And out of step. The honor guard carried flags, not umbrellas. The Cub Scouts and Girls Scouts and various incarnations of the Holy Family marched bravely in the drizzle. Some of those banners and robes must have weighed a ton by the time they absorbed nearly an hour's worth of “partly cloudy.”

        An astonishing number of the 2,500 villagers showed up. While 75 or so entries in the parade were getting their dogs to agree to wear antlers and their children to wear their mittens, Mayor Menz showed me a photo taken in 1918 when Main Street was lined with huge, beautiful elm trees.

        “They met at the top like a big arch. Beautiful. Gorgeous.” Elaine Dietrich sighs. The trees were a casualty of the widening of Main Street, Ohio 125, in 1950.


Hot chocolate brigade
        Next to the municipal building is a new Rite Aid drugstore on the site of the Morse House, a stagecoach stop in bygone days. The company bought the property, then donated the house back to the village and paid to have it moved around the block. Being a good citizen.

        “We work together here,” says Kerry Schulze, zoning inspector and street commissioner.


        Cake for the party at the Clermont Savings Bank after the parade was donated, and Dennis Schwey, husband of Amelia Councilwoman Debbie Schwey, made the excellent chili. Everyone agreed, with some relief it seemed to me, that the chili was not as hot as last year's. Or maybe we were just colder. The weather truly was lousy.

        Dave Dietrich kept asking whether we wanted him to put the top up. No thanks, Dave. I'd have missed the hot chocolate somebody from the Baptist church gave me, running along next to the car. I wouldn't have gotten a good look at the kids, with their plastic IGA bags, waiting to scoop up candy strewn by people carrying banners touting banks and auto repair shops and car dealers.

        They may have been there for the candy and the fat guy in the red suit, but they grinned and waved at me, making me feel like a very big deal. Or, even better, like a neighbor.

        Amelia's citizens lost their elm trees, and the Morse House has been moved. They've had a traffic problem at Oak and Main streets. But they seem to have kept what is important.

        And when we gathered inside the bank, after the parade, it was very warm indeed.

        E-mail Laura Pulfer at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393. Author of I Beg to Differ, she appears on WVXU radio, National Public Radio's Morning Edition and Insight Communications' Northern Kentucky Magazine.