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!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 11th

Phew! What a day! Boy am I glad to be all checked into my motel and in my PJs. IT took me 12 hours to get from Bloomington, IL to North Platte, NE tonight, and that's with several stops along the way. I'm exhausted, but I don't want to get behind on the blog so I wanted to check in before I hit the hay.

I want to thank the wonderful Dicken family for another great time at their house last night. It was my second time visiting their display in Hudson, IL.  Bobby Dicken had a stage and his deejay sound system set up so I didn't need to set up mine, which was really nice.  Bobby even had chairs and bleachers set up for the audience! The local Mother's Club served hot chocolate and Santa and Mrs. Claus were there, too! The audience filled up the collection box for Toys for Tots which was great for me to see.
Here's a picture of me with Bobby:

It was pretty cold out last night and I could see that some folks in the audience were bundling up against the cold, but I really want to thank everyone who came out and endured the brisk weather to dance and sing with me. Of course, the standout was little six-year old Olivia who came in her festive red pants and who I could see dancing from the stage.  She came up to sing "Frosty the Snowman" and she came up with some really interesting lyrics that the audience loved. What a little doll.  After the show she came over to get her free CD and she was so funny...she kept saying over and over again, "I'm a rock star!" HAHAHA!!

During "Santa Whatcha Got" I asked if there was a couple in the audience who could come up and swing dance and to my delight there was ! They were wonderful!  And another great thing was that the couple who got engaged at my show there two years ago came over to say "hi," and they've now been happily married for over a year. That's the one and only time anyone's ever gotten engaged at one of my concerts (as far as I know!) so I was touched that they made the effort to come out to the show last night and say hello and tell me how they're doing.

In all, I think a good time was had by all. I know I had a wonderful time. And many thanks for the Hudson Lions Club for giving me a generous donation to help with the tour. I really appreciate it.


Tomorrow it's on to Casper, WY and
“Christmas in Wyoming”  www.christmasinwyoming.org
3148 Whispering Springs Road
Casper Wyoming 82604.
Their charity is Joshuas Storehouse… a local food bank and I hope we raise a lot of money and donations for them. 
It's only about a six and a half hour drive, and I go back in time another hour so I would get to sleep in, except I have to get up early and call Santa Claus at six am for my radio job.  So I'd better get to sleep!!
In closing, I'd just like to say that watching TV in all these hotel/motel rooms really validates what I thought all along....we aren't missing anything by just having basic cable at home.
Nitey nite!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

December 8-10

After a week on the road I’m reaching that point where one hotel room blends into another and I don’t know what date it is without double checking.  But what I predicated when I backed out of my driveway is coming true.  I said to myself, “Judy, you are going to be a changed person the next time you drive into this driveway.” I guess, to a certain degree, that is true every day because whatever we experience changes us somewhat, but it is definitely true on an adventure like this.

Before I go any further I want to thank all of those who sponsored the trip and made this journey possible.  I have been very frugal with the money you gave me, trying to wait for the lowest gas prices to fill up (the lowest so far was 2.39/gal), and eating the string cheese and crackers I brought with me for some meals, and the grapenuts for those places where the hotel did not provide breakfast.  There’s a cooler on my backseat with milk, cheese and jerkey in it.  Thanks VERY MUCH to my friends in Auburn, NH, for giving me the delicious jerkey (90 cals a serving and a ton of protein!) plus many other healthy (and some not quite so…) snacks in a box that is in the center of my back seat next to the cooler.  Today I stopped at a Meijer store and got raspberries for $1/6 ounces! I couldn’t believe my luck.  It isn’t always easy to eat healthy on the road but I am trying.

Let’s see…when I last left you I was in Tennessee with the Winton Family on Sunday night…what fun we had together!  I didn’t really know them before, but now I feel that we are friends…as with John and Bonnie Earle, who hosted the concert on Friday, and of course, Jason Reph and his parents in PA, who have hosted me now four times.  That is the biggest blessing for me…even though I only see these folks for less than a day, friendships are forged.

On Monday I headed for Kentucky, which was a short drive, comparatively.  My friend Terri, who moved from NH to Kentucky this past summer, had booked a show for me in the elementary school where she teaches.  I sang for 500 kids from K-5, and it was a very uplifting experience for me. The kids were well-mannered, bright and FUN and I got lots of hugs and sweet comments as they left the auditorium after the show.  I went to Terri’s room to see her first graders for a little while after the assembly, and I gave each child an autographed photo.  One of the little girls told me my songs were ‘mind blowing.”  HAHAHA!!  A few others said that mine was the first autograph they’d gotten.  How nice it was for me to meet these wonderful children.

At this point I must interject the real reason why this school visit was important to me, and how it changed me.  Lately in the children’s music “industry” there has been a trend toward “hip music for hip kids” and the term “kindie” (independent kids’ artists) has been coined. At Grammy time I received lots of CDs to consider from artists whose main selling point was that parents love their music just as much as the kids do, and "hip music for hip kids."  That’s all well and good, but that’s not really my concern as a children’s musician. I have always believed that the music should be CHILD-centered, and if the parents come along for the ride, that’s great but that’s not the focus. When I was raising my kids I would have DIED if anyone had said they were “hip.”  I am NOT nor have I ever have been considered “hip.”  I’m not concerned with my image as a parent…whether or not my kids were wearing the “right” clothes, went to the “right” schools or listened to the “right” music. I just wanted them to feel loved and be happy and healthy.  That has also been my approach to creating music for children.  But lately I have felt more and more irrelevant in the children’s music “scene” as the kindie acts take over. Many of them are rockers, and that is definitely not my thing. I am more from the "Sesame Street-Sharon, Lois and Bram, Raffie" school of music for kids.  As such,  I have been labeled “old school” by the tastemakers.  It hurts, but oh well.  There’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t change my music to please them. I just have to go on the fact that children have loved my music and my performances for going on 20 years, and I can only create what I feel in my heart. But sometimes I have to admit, I wonder whether I have a future in this business. I've been wondering it a LOT lately and worrying.  Because I love performing for children. I truly do in my heart and soul. That’s one of the reason that the validation from the kids this week was so important.

I had a very similar experience at the Edgwood Elementary School in Indiana where I performed yesterday.  Lots of love and fun going around.  It fed my soul. When I’m singing and kids are laughing and having a good time, I feel like I know my purpose.  It’s a wonderful feeling.

So anyway, I spent Monday night with Terri, her husband Travis and her delightful Mom, and then yesterday I was up at six and on the road by 6:15, headed to Anderson, Indiana from Kentucky.  At some point I crossed back into the Eastern Time Zone, so I had to make good time, and I got there in plenty of time for the school show, which my host, Paul Wood, had arranged.  The school is right across the street from his house, and he was kind enough to promote my work to the principal there so I could make a little money to help fund the tour. Once again, the children were wonderful and the staff was gracious. It was a five-star experience.

The concert last night at Paul and Jo’s house was a great time also.  This was my second time there and I love visiting them because they do so much to make it special.  They had arranged for the street to be closed and they put chairs in the street and a stage right in front of their lawn so that their beautiful lights were my backdrop.  They had a space heater on the stage which I truly appreciated because there was a cold wind a’ blowin’! (Paul also had a heater in the street—pretty big, I think it was rented from someplace) for the guests.  The concert benefitted Team Rubicon, which puts our veterans to work on disaster relief projects and is a great organization, and a representative from the group was there to speak to the crowd. Then Paul introduced the Mayor of Edgewood, who, to my surprise, read a proclamation declaring it “Judy Pancoast Day!”  I was moved nearly to tears. Even after five of these tours, these types of things are still unbelievable to me.  What an honor! And when I found out how it happened, I was even more pleased. Her Honor the Mayor lives across the street from the Woods, and had been at my concert two years ago and purchased some of my CDs and said she loves my music. It was her idea to do something special to welcome me. They also erected a “Christmas Street” sign on the road!  How cool!! 
Here's a picture of the Mayor, reading the proclamation. I am looking down at Jo Wood, who is sitting at the table at her computer. That's Paul Wood on the right, and of course, their magnificent display!

I was able to sing three of the songs along with the synchronized lights (Joanne is the programmer in this family), including “The House on Christmas Street,” so that made it extra special for the audience and lots more fun for me.  There was a little table from a local restaurant selling hot chocolate and cookies, and at the end of the concert who arrived but that jolly old elf himself, Santa Claus!  The children got autographed photos from me while they waited in line to tell him their fondest wishes.  I asked him for a new van, but he said he couldn’t promise anything.

Speaking of the van, it’s now up over 463,000 miles and I’m hoping to hit 470k on the tour although, according to my calculations, it will be just short of that when all is said and done.  I did make it to a Kentucky WalMart to get the headlight fixed, but it turned out that the bulb was just loose and they didn't charge me anything. The guys there were super nice---southern hospitality.

Now here I am in Hudson, IL at the hotel doing my laundry.  I was almost out of pants. I’ll write more later when I get back from “A Dicken Christmas.” Bobby is a deejay and really knows how to put on a fun show (two years ago someone got engaged at my concert here) so I’m really looking forward to it.  Of course, I look forward to all the concerts and each one is a different experience, fun and special in its own way. 
Oh, by the way, I brought my bathing suit and four of the hotels have had indoor pools but I haven't made it into one of them yet.  I'm lucky to be able to take a shower (I gotta get warmed up) after the show and then plop into bed.  All of the hotels have had HBO which I don't have at home and that's bad bad bad because I love movies and I've stayed up much later than I should some nights!

Chat more later!!
OH! PS!  Joanne Wood and her sister made the most delicious beef stew last night!!  It was so nice to have a home-cooked meal!!  They even sent some with me. Thank you so much, Paul and Jo!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

December 7, The Winton Light Display, Manchester, TN

It was a beautiful drive to Tennessee today, as I drove an hour back in time. I had to stop and take a van nap about three-quarters of the way along, and I always fall asleep instantly when I pull off into a truck plaza to snooze, but it was extra nice this year because I had a pillow that had been handmade by one of my friends from St. Matthew's Church at home, Linnae Peterson. Linnae, the pillow did the trick and thank you so much!!
 It was really nice to still have sunshine at 5pm.  I arrived in enough time to check into my hotel room and relax a bit before going over to Jordan Winton's display. 
Jordan is a thirteen year old young man I first met online through the community of decorators that I correspond with online.  I didn't know how old he way, then I met him and his Dad at Christmas Expo in Gatlinburg, TN a couple of years ago and I was shocked to find out he was just a boy! He really impressed me with his maturity and his enthusiasm for his decorating hobby, so when he asked me if I would come to his house on the tour this year I was quick to say "yes."
Driving to the house from the hotel some of the roads were very dark, but I saw the glow of the Winton's Light Display from at least a mile up the road.  Jordan's display is beautiful and spread out over a lot of land (I'm not good with eyeballing acres and such) so it looks very tasteful and Christmassy. He has a parking lot so people may park off the road and walk through the display and you would really have to do that in order  to see all of the things he has out there.  His Mom and Dad are enthusiastic supporters of his hobby, with Dad getting right in there and helping him build stuff, but Jordan does all the sequencing to make the lights dance with the music himself. I am very impressed with this kid, in case you can't tell!
Jordan and his parents greeted me enthusiastically and I liked his lovely mother right away.  She is very down to earth and friendly. They had set up a stage for me and helped me get set up, and Jordan had a wireless mic for me to use, which was nice. 
I was blown away by a visit from another decorator, Dennis Cherry, and his lovely wife Ann, who drove nearly two hours to come and see me in Manchester.  I first met them through the decorating network when they invited me to Dallas to perform for a decorator get -together while I was on one of my summer tours. Now they live in TN and they made a special trip to come and see me, and that sure made me feel special. After the show Ann gave me a box of Christmas earrings that she'd made herself and I told her that I would wear them for every concert on the tour from now on.
The crowd was enthusiastic, with several children dancing and going nuts whenever the snow machine came on.
About a fifteen minutes into the concert I noticed I could see my breath, and my fingers were starting to freeze!  It was the third concert on the tour and the first one where I could see my breath, but I know more of those are coming as I start heading north tomorrow.  I'll be taking a hot shower in a little while! 
Tomorrow I am visiting my friend Terri, who is a teacher who moved from NH to KY with her husband this year. She has booked a concert for me at her school, and I am looking forward to performing for the kids.  I'll spend the night with them, then Tuesday it's on to Anderson, IN and Edge-WOOD lights. I've been there once before and Paul Wood and his wife Jo have become friends, so I know that will be another warmhearted meet-up. I'm so fortunate to have made so many friends all over the country during these tours. I'm a very blessed person, and I thank God for it every day.

By the way, so far the van is holding up just fine.  I think I have a headlight out  and I'll get that looked at tomorrow, but fingers crossed: so far so good!!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Montclair, Virginia

No performer ever wants to fall flat on their face during a show.  That's why I'm glad I did it five minutes BEFORE my show at "An Earle Family Christmas" last night in Montclair, VA!  More about that later....

First I just want to say that the greatest thing of all for me about these concerts is the WONDERFUL people I get to meet. It's such fun to show up at a place and meet people you've been corresponding and planning with for months...you feel like you know them already, but then to see what nice and fun people they are in person is the icing on the cake. I liked John and Bonnie Earle before I even pulled up to their house, but man! What a wonderful impression they made on me last night.  A beautiful couple just filled with love for each other and God and their fellow human beings.  It's an inspiration!  Their display is lovely and John had made a pretty backdrop for me inside their garage in case it rained...but the weather held out and we had a fun concert for about 60 people in the driveway and raised $200 for the Wounded Warrior Project!  John and Bonnie handed out BIG candy canes to the attendees and the Daughters of the American Revolution came out with a table to hand out free hot chocolate and homemade baked goods.  The weather was fairly warm (I didn't need any gloves) and there was a slight mist but no rain. In all, a perfect evening with a fun and appreciative audience and a good result for the charity.  I'm very happy about it!

Part way through the concert a little girl, I guessed she was about two and found out later I was right, toddled right up to me out of the crowd while I was singing "Merry Christmas, Darling."  I held my hand out to her and she grabbed my finger in a tight grip and stood there with me during the whole song.  Then for every song after that she came back, and when she danced to the faster songs it was just a hoot.  Her name was Dylan and she was a little doll and a half. What a precious experience for me!

I also wanted to mention that meeting John's best friend and Bonnie's son were two more pleasures of the evening. We all went to dinner afterwards and it felt like I was with old friends.  We talked and laughed as though we'd known each other all our lives.  For me, out on the road alone and often showing up at strangers' houses, it's a heartwarming experience to be so fully welcomed by people that you just know are going to end up being lifelong friends.  This is what has happened in the five years since I began doing this tour...I've been so fortunate to make real friends all over the country, from Maine to California.  I can't tell you what a blessing this is to me, and I once again want to thank all the people who make it possible with their donations. I don't get rich on this tour...in fact, when all is said and done I don't make any income except from radio during the month of December, but what I gain in friendship, love and lifetime memories is "more than money can buy," in the words of a little song I heard somewhere...

Now, about that falling down.  Five minutes before I was supposed to begin singing I was heading back to the van to get something when my shoe hit the side of the walkway and I lost my balance. I went careening forward and reached out my left arm to break the fall because I had something in my right arm.  I landed face first in a low bush.  It was pretty scary for a minute, but aside from shocking my shoulder (the one I had the surgery on) and scraping my knee I am no worse for the wear.  But it was VERY embarrassing!  Many thanks to all who rushed forward to help and express concern for my well being. I am A-OK!  Just a klutz!

The next show is at the home of Jordan Winton and his family (Jordan is a 13-year old wizard decorator!) in Manchester, TN tomorrow night, so today is a driving day. Right now I am in a hotel with a fitness center so I'm headed down to get in some exercise, and then I'll hit the road. It's about a nine hour drive but since I don't have a show today I'm going to stop in and visit my dear friends who I first met on the tour in 2010, Larry and Rachel Charpiat of Pilot Mountain Christmas. I'm really looking forward to seeing them. See what I mean about making lifelong friends through this experience? I have truly been blessed.

Oh, and by the way, on the way down to Montclair the Sienna rolled over 462K miles>  whoo hoo!

God bless everyone. Hope you are enjoying a wonderful Christmas season!
                                                         John and Bonnie Earle and me

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

First Stop, Nazareth PA December 3, 2014

I'm sitting here in my hotel room in Wind Gap, PA (they don't call it Wind Gap for nothing. It's blowing a freezing wind out there!) having three string cheese thingys and some low fat wheat thins for dinner.  I feel as though I might possibly never get warm again...but that's okay, it's all worth it because tonight was a GREAT kickoff to the tour!

This was my fourth year performing at Jason Reph's display in Nazareth, PA, and now I feel like he and his parents are old friends.  Jason's display is just gorgeous and fun and full of special childlike touches like the trains and spread out over his family's HUGE front and side yards.  This year he had a new addition:  you could see Santa in the window over the front door, moving around inside and, I suppose, making his list of who is naughty and nice.

There was one family that came tonight that has been to my concerts there before and their Mom tells me they are Judy Pancoast fanatics. I guess it must be true because the two girls and their brother did a choreographed dance to the original version of The House on Christmas Street that was just terrific. What fun it was for me to see that they had actually taken pleasure in listening to my song over and over to create the moves, and what fun they had doing it.  They made me a "House on Christmas Street World Tour" button which I pinned to my scarf and promised them I would wear throughout the tour. So a big shout out tonight to Becka and her husband Kevin and the kids.  You really made it a wonderful start to the tour for me!

And thanks, of course, to Jason and his Mom and Dad who go all out to give the visitors hot chocolate and homemade cookies and toys every year.  I hope we raised a lot for the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation.

Singing for great audiences is always fun no matter what the weather conditions, but after the crowds have gone and it's time to pack up? That's when I start to really feel the cold and start thinking "I'm getting too old for this!"  It was 42 out there- positively balmy by New England winter standards- but the wind was biting and once again my fingers froze while I was signing autographs. Still, I wouldn't trade this night for a month of 75 degree summer days. Thanks so much to everyone who came out and made it a wonderful night ...and remember Santa (yes, he was there...he arrived on a fire truck!) I still want that new van under the tree.....