Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The House on Christmas Street 2017 Charity Tour

I'm doing it again! Once again I'm going to get in my van (current mileage: 540,000) and travel across the country doing community Christmas concerts on the lawns and in the driveways of decorators who use my music in their displays!  Here's this year's itinerary:

Thursday, November 30 at 6pm:
Rich Motz, “Laurel Ave Lights”
659 Laurel Ave., Lititz PA 17543

Friday, December 1 at 7pm: 
Jason Reph, “Reph’s Winter Wonderland”
198 Firehouse Lane, Nazareth, PA 18064

Sunday, December 3 ad 7pm:
Gary Mayfield, “Holiday Lightshow on Edison Road”
24013 Edison Road, South Bend Indiana 46628        

Monday, December 4:
Bobby Dicken, “A Dicken Christmas”
706 Trimmer Dr., Hudson, IL 61748

Tuesday, December 5: 
Omaha, NE (hospital performance, tentative)

Wednesday, December 6:
Brian Wagner, “Christmas in Wyoming”
3148 Whispering Springs, Casper, Wyoming, WY 82604

Thursday, December 7: 
Tyson Schmidt, “The Journey of Lights”
9105 W. Overland Road, Boise, Idaho
Charity:  TBA

Friday, December 8:
Mark Zembruski, “Woodinville Wonderland” 
23620 NE 183rd St, Woodinville, WA 98077

Saturday, December 9:
Paul Aziz, “Cascade Christmas Lights”
312 E Sherman Street, Lebanon Oregon

Sunday, December 10:
David Castaldo, “Castaldo Christmas Circus of Lights”
49 California Ave.,Beaumont CA 92223  (100 yards south of 1st St. on w/s of California Ave. Do not rely on common GPS, it will put you on a dirt road in an empty field)

Wednesday, December 13:
Bob Brescia, “Shiloh Road Lights”
77 Shiloh Road Odessa, TX 79762

Thursday, December 14: 
Main Pecan Arts Center

Friday, December 15:
Jim Dennis, “Christmas in the Pines”

Sunday, December 17:
Judy will perform at Mickey’s Home Christmas Carnival
Mickey Baus, “Mickey’s Home”
5306 Nagami Drive, Windermere FL 34786
Tuesday, December 19
Jim Dennis, “Christmas in the Pines”

Wednesday, December 20:
Terri Keeling, “A Clifty Christmas”
The intersection of North 181 and Route 890/Rabbit Ridge Road. Elkton, KY                                 

Friday, December 22  
Don Krasley, “Krasley Christmas”
525 Woodland Dr., Manheim, PA 17545

Saturday December 23rd

Hope to see you out there on the road somewhere!!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Sunday and Monday Dec. 21st and 22nd

Well, as I write this it's December 23rd, 11pm. I just completed a 22 1/2 hour saga in my car to get to my destination tonight. Tomorrow I pick up my daughter and we go home together, where my husband and our younger daughter, plus my dog and two cats await. I have to say, as much fun as this tour has been, I just can't wait to be with my family for Christmas!!

Three hours ago I swallowed a bottle of 5 Hour Energy, so I'm going to use the last of this boost to catch up on the blog!

So now, where were we? Oh yes....on Sunday I made the eight hour drive to Logansport, Louisiana to meet Joshua Lowe and perform at his display.  Josh is a great guy...a school psychologist, and it was clear from the minute I got there that he is well-loved by family and friends.  His house was swarming with people who were all there to help him out on this big night.  I met several wonderful family members and friends and was treated to a lovely meal of vegetarian chili, salad and garlic bread before the show.  I got there early enough to see Josh's display in action, and it was really beautiful. I can see why all the people in Logansport love his display!  Here's a picture I took before the show: 

As with all of my hosts, Josh and I had been communicating for months about the event. He asked for all of my music in advance so that he could do the programming and have the lights coordinated with every song. I know he worked awfully hard to put that together, but, unfortunately, there was some sort of glitch during the concert and he couldn't get the lights to work properly. He was working furiously at his computer to try to fix things while I was singing. I felt terrible about it, but there was nothing I could do but sing, and sing I did. It looked to me like the large crowd of people we had were having fun in spite of the light snafu.  The middle school cheerleaders and the school mascot were there selling hot chocolate, and people were dancing in the street.  And at last, Josh got the system to work properly in time for me to sing "The House on Christmas Street" with his light display.  It was wonderful!! 

Josh, I hope you don't let the light thing dampen your enthusiasm for the event.  I had a wonderful time and was so happy to meet you, and I thought your display was beautiful.  You had a wonderful crowd there and the support of the community. I think everybody had fun and people had a lot of nice things to say to me after the show.  As far as I'm concerned, it was a big success and thank you so much for having me!

On Monday I made the short four hour drive to Baton Rouge, to meet James Hohensee and his family. I've known James online for several years, as he was one of the first to order a customized version of The House on Christmas Street for his display, and I was happy to see that in person he was just as nice as I suspected he would be.  He'd told me that we were going to do the concert on the grounds of the school across the street from his house, but I had a hard time picturing it until I got there.  It's a good thing he planned it that way, because for the last concert of the tour we had the biggest audience of the tour. I'd venture a guess that there were 600-800 people there! The crowd was massive!!!  I set up so that James' display was in back of me, and everyone could watch his light show which he had coordinated to go with my entire show. It was simply amazing.  And I couldn't believe the weather...70 degrees. It was the one and only show on the tour that I did without wearing my coat and hat!

James' display was so bright and he had one of those newfangled mega trees that do all kinds of amazing things with the lights...I can't remember what the technology is called but they can do stunning things with the lights. For example, when we sang "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" the tree projected the face of Rudolph!  And he had the biggest Santa Claus on the roof that I had ever seen. Here's a picture I took before the show:

 In addition to me, Santa and Mrs. Claus were there and so was Elsa from Frozen.  The kids went nuts for her!  He ran the whole show through my sound system with his computer so that the lights went with every song.  I could tell the audience was just entranced because as I sang I could see that they were all looking past me. They were a very enthusiastic crowd.  Before the show I asked them to light and raise their cell phones and I took some pictures. Here is just 1/3 of the crowd that was there: 

It was an absolutely thrilling way to end the tour!!
After the autographing and stuff I was invited to have some food with the family and friends and got to enjoy the delicious jambalaya that James himself had made that day.  The man is multi-talented!  They even gave me some in a "to go" container!

Hohensee Family, thank you for a wonderful ending to the tour.  I am grateful for your generosity and the massive effort you put into coordinating the show.  It truly made the last night of the tour amazing for me!

So that's it, the last two shows of the tour.  I won't be blogging again for a few days as I want to get "unplugged" while my family is home, but sometime next week I'm going to write a post with my highlights and memories from each of the stops along the way.  For now I just want to say a hearty thank you again to everyone who supported the tour financially and with your good thoughts and prayers...especially Chuck Smith and Planet Christmas who made a huge donation to the tour fund... and from the bottom of my heart a huge thank you to all of my hosts who went out of their way to make me feel comfortable while I was at their homes. And, of course, thank you to all of the people who came out to the shows.  It really was a most amazing experience and I shall never forget it!!


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Saturday, December 20th

I'm sitting in my hotel room in Odessa and I just stumbled upon one of my favorite comedies, "Two Weeks Notice" with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. I just love this movie.  So funny! I don't know why they never made another movie together because they make a great team.

I am really just exhausted but it's a good exhaustion. I drove today from Deming, New Mexico to Odessa, Texas. It was a beautiful day for a drive and I spent the whole drive listening to a really great book, so the time flew by. I had time to check into my hotel before going over to Dr. Bob Brescia's house.  Boy, was I surprised when I got there.,...the entire neighborhood was lit up.  And I don't mean just a little....every single house had lights and decorations along the entire street and even on neighboring streets.  They know how to do the lighting thing!  It was gorgeous!  Bob had set up a flatbed truck with artificial turf in front of his house to be a stage for me, and it was  an easy setup. Once I got all set up I walked around the neighborhood and took this video:
In case you couldn't see clearly in the video, Bob's display included cacti with "peppers", mannequins in one of the windows dressed in Texas garb, and an oil derrick spouting "oil" in lights.  I love when decorators add regional elements to their displays!
Bob and his terrific wife, Marianne, had hired a caterer to provide food for me and their guests.  Marianne told me that their neighbors had gotten involved by planning a block party around my concert, and several of the homes were doing "open houses" and serving food and drink.  I thought that was a great idea!  This neighborhood seems really friendly and unified.  How great it was to be in the midst of it. 

Before the show I was interviewed by a reporter from the local ABC affiliate, and I think we were on the 10pm news.  And then Jay Hendricks,  local news anchor from CBS-7 came out to emcee the show and they also did a feature on the event.  So I got a lot of publicity here in Texas tonight.  Oh, and by the way, I also found out that Odessa is where the real coach from "Friday Night Lights" is from, and the movie was actually filmed here.  And they really do put signs on the lawns of the football players, just like they did in the TV show.  I looked around for Tim Riggins, but, unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found. :(

Performing the concert was really something, surrounded by lights everywhere I looked.  Before I began, Jay introduced the Mayor Pro Tem of Odessa, who read a proclamation declaring that the street be renamed "Christmas Street" for the month of December.  I had tears in my eyes.  I don't know, but it just all of a sudden hit me that all of this was happening just because God gave me this idea to write a song about that house "in every town" and I took the ball and ran with it.  How lucky I am.  That was really a "moment" for me.  I was thinking about Edgewood, IN where the Mayor declared it "Judy Pancoast" Day and they ALSO renamed their street "Christmas Street."  Boy...what a lot of amazing things have happened on this tour...not the least of which is all of the wonderful people I have met. It's amazing how close you can feel to someone in just a matter of hours.  You are all my friends now, and I am so grateful for everyone who has hosted me and everyone who has made this adventure possible.

Anyway, back to the concert....There were a few hundred people out in the street and the folks from the charity, The Educational Foundation of Odessa, were selling these giant glow sticks so all the kids had them.  The street was blocked off and kids were dancing and waving their glow sticks around. They had also organized a raffle and were selling hot chocolate.  I just found out that, in all, they raised $1700!!!!!!  That's a record for this tour, just edging past the total in Boise of $1600 for The Women and Children's Alliance of Boise.  I'm so excited that my concerts have been a focal point for raising all this money for good causes....but it's really my hosts and their charities who do the lion's share of the work. And this year some of these guys have set the bar high and created a new model for how to use my concert as a starting point to create an actual event to raise money for the charities. I'll be suggesting these things to all hosts on future tours.

I added "Merry Christmas, Darling" to the set list of this tour because several people, including Marianne Brescia, suggested that I should do a Carpenters song as part of the mix.  It's been a great addition, as I look out and see couples holding hands or with arms around one another enjoying this great romantic song.  Well, last night a guy walked from the yard across the street, past the crowd and right up to the stage in the middle of the song.  He had a glass of what appeared to be champagne in one hand, and with the other he gave me a high five. Then he disappeared back into the crowd and I didn't see him again the rest of the night. I guess he really liked that song!

------I couldn't complete this entry last night as my eyes were closing while I was sitting up, so it's now the 21st and I have stopped halfway to Logansport, LA to finish this, and I'm sitting in a Starbucks enjoying an expensive tall skinny peppermint mocha.  This is only my second trip to a Starbucks on this journey because they are so FREAKING expensive.  But Dunkin' Donuts are rare in this part of the country and I need to charge the computer anyway in order to do this, so this is the price I've paid.  Hee hee...of course I am also enjoying the chocolate fix!

I want to thank Marianne and Bob for inviting me to fill a  container with food from their spread last night. I'll be eating that for lunch for the next couple of days.  And then, when I got back to my hotel room, there was a "Welcome to Odessa" bag waiting for me, courtesy of the Brescias, and it included this cute stuffed jackrabbit which I will cherish always: 

Tonight I will be in Logansport, LA...here are the details; 
Logansport Lights”    facebook.com/logansportlights

209 Sycamore St 

Logansport, LA 71049

Then tomorrow it's the LAST concert on the tour, in Baton Rouge, LA, and then I start heading home.  I'm hearing terrible weather reports, so please keep me in your prayers. I want to be HOME on Christmas Eve.

As always, thank you for coming on this journey with me and for caring enough to read this. God bless...

Friday, December 19, 2014

This Week So Far....

I'm sitting here at Michael Simmons' house in Cathedral City and I have some free time before the show starts so I thought I'd blog a little bit.  It was a long drive from Clayton, California to the greater Palm Springs area. This California traffic is something else!  I'm not sure I could deal with it on a daily basis...but I sure don't mind the warm weather, green grass and leaves on the trees.  Sooooo nice!
Now I have to backtrack a little bit, because the last time I wrote was about the show in Idaho, which seems like weeks ago now.  All this traveling really messes with my sense of time. Just a minute ago when I started writing I had to really think about what day it actually is!!

Okay, I'm straightened out.  So on Monday I left Boise, Idaho and headed for Bend, Oregon.  The drive was scary.  It's the first time on the tour that I've been really nervous. For a little over two hours I was driving through this valley surrounded by high hills on a two lane road with no cell phone service. I felt really claustrophobic. All I kept thinking was that if I broke down there I'd be vulture food. Then I got thinking about this horror movie I watched not too long ago called Joy Ride. If you've ever seen it then I don't need to explain any more. Let's just say I wouldn't want to meet that trucker on the road in a spot with no cell phone service.

Finally, I came to this little town where I stopped to wander into a store and pick up a Christmas present.  I told the lady in there that I'd been traveling through two hours of wilderness and she said, "No honey...wilderness is what you're headed for.  It's nothing but desert between here and Bend."  And she was right. But somehow it wasn't so scary, because of the wide open spaces. I love wide open spaces....that's why I love New Mexico so much...and I'm headed there soon....but anyway...

I arrived in Bend in time to check into my hotel, and then I went over to Adam Bloxham's house. I enjoyed meeting Adam and his family, but, unfortunately, they were having a lot of technical difficulties with the show that night, it was snowing,  and finally the power went out altogether, so I was unable to do the performance.  It was very disappointing.

I went back to my hotel and decided to salvage the day by getting into the hot tub. It wasn't a very big hot tub for a hotel, but the pool area was nice and clean, so I grabbed my book and ventured in.  I was in for about ten minutes when suddenly this big hairy guy came into the pool area.  I thought,  he's probably getting into the pool.  He wouldn't get into this little hot tub with me. But sure enough, that's exactly what he did~! He slid in about two feet from me. I didn't dare to look at him and kept my eyes on my book, but when I sneaked a sidelong glance he was sitting there with his eyes closed.  It was sooooo awkward.  I sat there for a few minutes, feeling REALLY uncomfortable but thinking,  when I stand up he's gonna see my whole body in this bathing suit, and all my saggy skin on my thighs, and I don't want him to stare at me THIS CLOSE...it was just completely disconcerting. Finally I couldn't stand it any longer so I got out as gracefully as I could, wrapped the towel around me and hurried back to my room.  EW is all I have to say about THAT experience.

The next day was a driving day...my next show wasn't to be until Wednesday night in Clayton, California, so I hung around in Bend for a little while, did some Christmas shopping and took in a movie just to clear my head. I was feeling bad about the night before, and I was also missing my husband and kids.  When I planned the tour I didn't know my youngest was going to be home from school a week earlier than usual this year, and it bummed me out that she was getting home that day and I wouldn't be home until Christmas Eve. I love music, and I love traveling, and I love meeting all the great people out here, but I love my family most of all. I'm sure you understand!

Anyhow, after the movie I drove for about six hours to northern California, where I spent the night.  There was a fitness room in the hotel so I was able to get some good cardio in, and then yesterday I woke up and drove down to Cupertino to meet up with an online friend for lunch, which was really great! I felt as if I had known her all my life!  Then I drove back up to Clayton to do my appearance at "A Heart for Christmas," Jeffrey Homes' display, and I was positively delighted with what I found there.  All the decorators I've met who synchronize their lights call their presentation a "show" because it is usually a 15-30 minute program featuring several songs with lights synchronized to them.  But Jeff's show is actually a show with a story, featuring animated characters he created that are projected on the fa├žade of the house ...two little snowpeople, and he weaves the music in with the story. It is positively delightful!  I was SO impressed.  He even had fountains in this display.  The whole thing was very Disney-esque and I could easily see Jeff getting a job at Disney in the future (he's only 23).  I had a chance to speak with his Dad a little bit and they are encouraging him to follow his creative dreams, which I think is wonderful. That was our philosophy with our children too, but I know not all parents are that way. A lot of parents really stress the "practical" and don't encourage creative or artsy children to follow their passion, and I personally think that's unfortunate. You're only young once, with no obligations. Follow those dreams!

But back to the story....Jeff put his lights on "static" while I performed, but unfortunately the rain started coming down pretty steadily.  I was covered on the portico, but the rain was like a curtain between me and the hardy souls who were in the audience area, so I did an abbreviated show because I felt bad for them, too polite to leave but standing out there in the rain.  I did The House on Christmas Street with Jeff's lights, and then we packed it up and I went in. They invited the small crowd into the house so I could sign autographs for them, and Jeff's Mom fed us dinner.  It was a wonderful evening.  And then the rain let up and we all went out and watched Jeff's show.

The biggest surprise of the day was that Michael Simmons, my friend from Cathedral City, CA (near Palm Springs) flew up from L.A. to San Francisco to see the show!!  I've known Michael for several years through the Christmas decorating community, and I performed at his house on the 2012 tour.  Last year his house was featured on the reality show "The Great Christmas Light Fight" and he tried so hard to get the producers to feature his house playing my song, but in the end they chose a different song when they showed his house. So Michael came up to the show (he's also friends with Jeff) and at the end he invited me to come and sing at his house.  I'd learned that morning that the gentleman who was supposed to host me in Beaumont, CA had to cancel due to illness, so I had the night free, and that's how I ended up here!! So even though there was no advance publicity for the show, Michael was able to get the local TV station to announce it, and he has tons of people coming by here every night anyway, so it's another great opportunity for me to have fun and sing, which is why I'm on this tour!  I also want to mention that Michael's display supports a charity he created which is called "Shine the Light on Hunger" which supports the FIND Food Bank. You may find out more about that here: http://mydesertlights.com/shinethelight.html

So thank you, Michael, for being my knight in shining armor!

As I finish this it is Friday morning. Michael not only let me perform at his house, he got me a room at the Palm Springs Hard Rock Hotel. Thank you so much AGAIN Michael.  This room is a palace and I loved looking at all the memorabilia as I came in last night.

There was a steady stream of traffic during the show last night.  Some people got out of their cars and some stayed in and rolled down their windows to enjoy the concert. It was a beautiful, starry desert night and I was really happy. I want to give a special shout out to the couple who were holding hands while I sang 'Merry Christmas Darling."  You made my night!

Today is a driving day. I'm going forward in time one hour, and going to make it to Deming, NM where I will spend the night. Tomorrow it's off to Odessa TX.  Here's the info about the show:
Saturday, Dec. 20 at 7pm

“Shiloh Road Lights”

77 Shiloh Rd                 

Odessa, TX 79762

Charity:    Educational Foundation of Odessa http://www.educationfoundationodessa.com

Can't wait to meet Dr. and Mrs. Robert Brescia!!
Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone I've met on this magical mystery tour so far!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

December 14th: Boise, ID

Tyson Schmidt is an old Christmas decorating friend...well, when I say "old" I mean I first met him when I performed at Terry Hurrle's "The Bright Side of Town" Christmas display on the first "The House on Christmas Street" tour in 2010.  He'd come up from Boise with his kids to see the show, and he came back two years later when I was there again. This year Tyson contacted me and asked me if I would do a show in Boise on the tour, but he didn't want the show at his house, he wanted it at his Church...The Journey, in Boise.  He described The Journey as being a church for the "spiritually curious" and that sounded good to me, being a person who always has a lot of questions on the journey of faith, so I said "yes!" 

The concert benefitted the Women and Children's Alliance of Boise, and they were able to get a hotel room donated at a very nice hotel in town.  I was absolutely thrilled when I checked in! This is not the kind of hotel I stay in when I'm paying the bill, so I want to that The Grove Hotel in Boise for donating the room and say that I'm very grateful.

I had a chance to rest a little bit before driving over to the hotel. Tyson said I could plug into his sound system so that took a little of the work off from my shoulders.  Tyson does a beautiful display at the church which, of course, has "Jesus and His Family in a stable on the lawn" but also "Santa Claus up on the roof."  Inside the church the Women and Children's Alliance had a table with info and I was able to thank them in person for getting the hotel room. 

I have to say,  Tyson and his wife and the folks at the church came up with a wonderful way to build upon my concert and raise money. Inside the building they held a silent auction and a raffle (what we call a "penny sale" back home, where you put your tickets in the bucket for the items you want most) with donated items. They also had Santa and Mrs. Claus, and free refreshments.  I was BLOWN AWAY when I found out today that they had raised over $1600!!!!!!! This makes me happy TO NO END.  Especially because...little known fact here...I was once one of the women who was helped by an organization in Bangor, ME similar to what the Women and Children's Alliance of Boise does. But that was in another life, before I met Philip and we began our new life together.  Still, these organizations are life savers and life changers and I know this first hand, so I'm just so happy to have been able to help out. But my concert was just the lynchpin upon which to hang the auction and raffle, which is really what made the money....along with donations.
The concert itself was a ton of fun, made better by the donated heaters that Tyson set up. I think it is safe to say that young and old had a rollicking good time dancing in the parking lot of the church.
It was a wonderful, wonderful night, but unfortunately I don't have any pictures ...maybe someone will send some to me and I'll be able to add them later.

Now it's on to Bend, Oregon to meet young Adam Bloxham, a 20 year old decorator who has been through some hardships this year but with whom I've been communicating just about daily. I'm so looking forward to meeting him, and seeing his display which was set up at a friends' house.  Hope to see you there!!!


Sunday, December 14, 2014

12-13-14 Salt Lake City, UT

I just got settled into my hotel room here in Boise, and the girl at the front desk asked me if I was doing the concert to benefit the Women and Children's Alliance of Boise, and I said "yes" and she was very excited.  I suspect the organization had this room donated, which is wonderful. I always encourage my hosts to see if they can get the room donated because it's a charity event, ever since Mark Zembruski in Washington did that on the first tour.  It's a beautiful room and very comfortable.

Before I go on to talk about Salt Lake City...I want to share a few photos. This picture I got from Jordan Winton, whose house I performed at a week ago in Manchester, TN.  He just posted this on my FB wall:
Isn't that gorgeous?  The stuff you see falling down in the middle of the picture is the snow from his snow machine. The kids loved that!!

And here's a photo from the home the other night in Casper WY.  I'm not sure if I've shared this yet.
And here's a picture that Paul and Jo Wood sent me of the Mayor of Edgwood reading the proclamation declaring it Judy Pancoast Day at my concert:

Anyhow, it was an uneventful ride from Salt Lake City to here today. About five hours. I did get a glimpse of the great Salt Lake and that was pretty cool. I mean, it just looked like a lake but it was still pretty cool to see something I've heard about all my life.  I did not have a chance to taste it, however. I'll take their word for it.

Last night at the Gowers' house in Salt Lake City was simply AMAZING.  The only downside was that we didn't have very good weather. It was a combination of rain, sleet and snow through the whole thing. Still, in spite of that they had about 500 people in the street, which they'd had blocked off for the event.  Of course, Robbie Gowers really did the thing up.  His concert benefited two charities, Children and the Earth, a local charity that helps families of children with serious illness, and the Miracle Mascot Foundation.  Both charities got involved and were there. Children and the Earth brought a special guest and had a hot chocolate tent, and the four mascots from Miracle Mascots who were running around and dancing made it a lot more fun for the kids. In addition, they had Santa and Mrs. Claus and Anna from 'Frozen."  On top of all that, he had a local food vendor called "Waffle Love" park their truck nearby and apparently they have a huge following who just follows the truck to get these waffles wherever it lands.
Children and the Earth is sponsoring a little girl named Addie who came and "turned on" the lights for us, and that was very special, although I have to say that my heart broke for her mother, who put on a brave face through the entire event.  Please keep this woman and her little girl in your prayers as what they are facing is the most terrible thing of all.  I couldn't get it out of my mind all day today.

I should add that Robbie and his buddies had set up six or seven tent canopies and heaters so that I could be under cover, and also Santa and Mrs. Claus and many of the guests. It helped but my stuff was still pretty soaked by the time all was said and done. Still, it was more than worth it as they raised almost $500 for the charities, and I got to meet a whole bunch of really terrific people.

Here are some pictures from the event:

That's my host, Robbie Gowers.
What a nice family.  They hosted a wonderful concert and then brought me to breakfast AND gave me a goodie bag that included a box of GrapeNuts!  They remembered the great Grape Nuts famine of earlier this year!  And that was terrific because I just used up the last of the box I brought with me for breakfast yesterday.
Thank you, Gowers family, for a fun and memorable time in Salt Lake City!!  Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Friday, December 12: Casper, Wyoming

As I write this, it's actually Saturday night and I'm in my very nice hotel room in Salt Lake City.  I  got into the hot tub at the hotel for the first time on this trip when I checked in after the show tonight. It was raining, snowing, sleeting...you name it...during the show tonight. But that's for the next blog. I'm a day behind so I'm gonna tell you about yesterday first. 
I left North Platte, NE before noon and had a really nice drive into Wyoming.  The sun came out as I drove through miles and miles of ranch land with only the occasional building.  It was very serene. I checked out Roadside America.com before heading out and it recommended the soda fountain in Chugwater as a cool place to stop, so I went in search of that. It WAS really cool and the people there were super nice.  I loved Chugwater...it was just a tiny little town, like you could literally shout from one end of town to the other, and there were hardly any people around. I think I saw it on The Twilight Zone once.

 After that refreshing break, my next stop was in Douglas, where I finally found the mythical jackalope of the wild west,
I loved that he was decked out for Christmas!!
I went back in time another hour during the drive.  One would have thought I was in a DeLorean!  I did love that the sun stayed up so long. At home the sun is down these days by 4pm and I feel like going to bed, but here, with the sun still up at 6pm, it's a new lease on life!
I arrived in Casper around 5pm and checked into my hotel, then went over to my hosts' house.  Casper is so high up and windy and there's so much SKY that it felt like being on the top of the world, to quote the Carpenters  I'd never been to their house before, and it was really great to meet the Wagners in person after communicating with them on line all this time. . I met Mrs. Wagner and their two beautiful little girls and we set up in no time as the people began gathering. Brian had the street blocked off so everyone was out in the street, and the folks from Expressions School of Theatrical Dance set up truck and sold hot chocolate and baked goodies during the show to help the kids earn their competition fees.  Being the mother of a dancer I was A-Okay with that!  Our main charity, however, was Joshua's Storehouse, a local food pantry, and lots of people brought donations for them. I was happy to see that the bins were filled by the end of the concert. It was close to 60 degrees out there----so great after being so cold at most of the concerts---and we had close to 150 people out there.
 Santa Claus showed up in a tricked out jalopy and he was the tallest Santa I have ever seen...he said he was 5 foot 17 inches! He just towered over the kids but they were all happy to see him anyway.  What I really loved, and what has never happened before at any of the tour concerts, was that Santa gathered all the kids around him in the street and danced with them all in a huge circle.  It was so wonderful to see!  Here are some pictures from the event:

A reporter from the local Channel 13 came out and filmed Santa in the street with the kids, and me singing, so I made the TV news for the second time on the tour. I didn't see it, though, because I fell asleep before it came on.
After the concert I sat and signed autographs and the younger of the Wagner girls sat next to me as my "assistant."  These kids were really fun and very helpful and polite.  They had two little doggies who were all dressed up for Christmas, too, and you know I loved that!
At the end of the evening, when I was all packed up and getting ready to leave, the Wagners told me that it had been a very special year for them because it was their tenth anniversary this year and it was also the year they adopted the girls. You could have knocked me over with a feather. I had no idea the girls were adopted.  They had been in the foster care system and the Wagners had fostered them, and then happily were able to adopt them. Clearly the girls are feeling safe, secure and loved.  They were so joyful last night!  They are a beautiful, loving family and it was a real blessing to me to meet them and see a miracle in progress. (I asked for their permission before making this public and they were fine with it).

Thank you, Wagner family, for letting me into your lives for this brief time, and also for the box of goodies you sent me off with. That brownie was yummy yum yum!
Okay, my eyes are starting to close now so I'll have to wait until tomorrow to write about today's show.  I'm having a wonderful time and have enjoyed this trip so much so far. Thank goodness I have a guardian angel watching over me.

Good night!