Dozens of Ozark Countians work to make Christmas merry for others

Rocky Top Campground and Cabins owner Joe Easterday checks to make sure Frosty is secure Monday afternoon following Sunday’s brutal winds. Easterday, with “lots of help” from friends Tom Bentele, Jason Turnbough and Duane Turner, is turning the Tecumseh campground into a magical drive-through Christmas wonderland that will be open to the public beginning Saturday, Dec. 1. “There’s still lots of work to do, but we’ll be ready by Saturday,” Easterday said. More than 10,000 lights decorate the cabins and the cozy clubhouse. Many new items have been added to the original display, which now has 24 inflatables, a nativity scene, a candy cane lane and more. Easterday and his wife Diane invite everyone to come out and enjoy the lights and decorations. A special evening is set for Saturday, Dec. 15, when hot chocolate, cookies and coffee will be served from 6 to 9 p.m. Rocky Top is off Highway 160 at the top of the Tecumseh curves. Times photo / Norene Prososki.

The Friendly Neighbors Extension Club this year continued its tradition of making 400 Christmas stockings to be filled with treats and given to parents for their children during the annual Ozark County Toy Drive. The club took over the stocking-making from Judy Lowe of Theodosia, who did the job single-handedly for several years.

Santa’s elves aren’t the only ones working hard to make Christmas merry for holiday enthusiasts young and old. Dozens of Ozark Countians are busy planning and working hard to finalize fun, inspiring and generous events intended as gifts to the community.


Ozark County Community Choir

The Ozark County Community Choir will perform its Christmas Cantata at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Clear Springs General Baptist Church at Highway PP and County Road 318, and at 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9, at First Baptist Church on Third Street in Gainesville.  



Winter wonderland at Rocky Top

This week Joe and Diane Easterday are busy transforming their Rocky Top Campground and Cabins resort into a winter wonderland with the help of good friends Tom Bentele, Jason Turnbough and Duane Turner. Joe Easterday said they plan to open the 10,000-light extravaganza to the public and hope to have it ready beginning Saturday evening, Dec. 1. A special evening is set for Saturday, Dec. 15, when hot chocolate, cookies and coffee will be served from 6 to 9 p.m.



‘An American Christmas’ in Bakersfield

Bakersfield will hold its annual holiday event on Saturday, Dec. 1, this year with the theme “An American Christmas.” First up is breakfast with Santa, to be served from 9 to 11 a.m. in the school cafeteria. The menu includes pancakes and sausage, milk and coffee for $2 per person. Parents will be welcome to take photos of youngsters with Santa. 

The annual Bakersfield Christmas parade kicks off at noon, with floats lining up for judging beginning at 11 a.m. in the Bakersfield High School parking lot. Everyone is encouraged to participate by entering a float, car, four-wheeler, dirt bike or horse. Prizes will be $100 for first place (sponsored by the Bakersfield Masonic Lodge) and $100 for school-affiliated (sponsored by Foster Feed), $75 for second place (sponsored by Evans Kwik Stop) and $50 for third place (sponsored by Comsee Hardware). A prize will also be awarded for best decorated horse (sponsored by Ridgerunners Miniatures). 

Contests will be held for Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas (grades 9-12), Mr. and Miss Snowflake (grades 6-8) and Little Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas (kindergarten through grade 5). 



Gainesville’s ‘Wonders of Christmas’

Gainesville’s annual holiday celebration, “Wonders of Christmas,” will be held the following Saturday, Dec. 8. Festivities are planned from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Vendors and crafters are invited to set up booths at noon on the west side of the square. Those interested in having a booth at the event should contact Pearl Schneider at 679-0388. 

The Mr. and Miss Merry Christmas contest, open to 4- and 5-year-old girls and boys, will be held again this year from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Those interested in entering their child in the contest are asked to call Kerrie Zubrod at 417-679-3321 no later than Dec. 1. Parents are encouraged to take photos of their children with Santa. 

A Christmas music concert will be held in the Historium from 1:30 to 2:15 p.m., followed by the reading of the Christmas story. 

The Jingle Bell Parade steps off at 2:30 p.m.; those wishing to participate in the parade are asked to call Paula Rose at 417-989-1282. Parade lineup will begin at 2 p.m. behind Town & Country Supermarket. There’s no entry fee for floats, and winning floats will be awarded $150 for grand prize, $100 for first place and $50 for second place. Individuals, groups, organizations, churches and bands are encouraged to participate. 

The Christmas tree lighting in the gazebo will follow the parade. 

Donations are needed to help with banners, prizes for winning floats and bands, and other event expenses. To help, drop off a check payable to the Ozark County Christmas Committee at Century Bank of the Ozarks or mail it to P.O. Box 68, Gainesville, MO 65655. 



The annual Ozark County Toy Drive

A small army of volunteers, led by long-time chairperson Nancy Walker, is working hard to make this year’s Ozark County Toy Drive another success as it serves the parents of an expected 400-plus children. The free event, which has provided Christmas gifts and goodies for Ozark County kids for decades, will be held Saturday, Dec. 15, with doors opening at 9 a.m. in the old senior center on Third Street in Gainesville. 

Nancy said Monday that the toy drive is open to all parents who can show “some kind of something” proving they live in Ozark County. After that, the only requirements are that “they are willing to stand in line, and they need to dress warm because it’s usually pretty cold.”

The toy drive gives parents gifts, treats and clothing items they had then give to their children. Admission into the toy drive will be by number. The numbers will be handed out by a volunteer beginning around 7 a.m. Saturday, Nancy said. At that time, the First Baptist Church, across the street from the old senior center, will be open to offer parents coffee, hot chocolate and restrooms.

Nancy expressed appreciation to the countless volunteers who quietly help with the toy drive in a variety of  ways. “Some are haulers,” she said, describing those who haul trailerloads of toys and gifts to the old senior center. Others help organize the tables of gifts by children’s ages or help gift-wrap the selected gifts. Some volunteers operate the clothing room, where packages of new underwear and carefully screened, gently worn coats and clothing are offered. 

“I’m particular about the clothing we accept. I don’t advertise that big time because we’ve had some problems before with clothes we just couldn’t give out. But I do appreciate clothes we can give away,” Nancy said.

She expressed thanks to building owner Jimmy Fortner for giving her extended access time for setting up the event. “It used to be I got in at noon on Friday and had to be out Saturday evening or Sunday when the senior center was using the building,” she said.

Throughout the year, Friendly Neighbors Extension Club members have made the 400 Christmas stockings that will be filled with treats to be given out during the toy drive. Club member Lily Branco said members took over the job  several years ago from Theodosia volunteer Judy Lowe when health problems caused her to give up the stocking-making work she had done for many years. 

It takes 55 yards of material to make the 400 stockings, Lily said, adding that she’s always looking for affordable Christmas fabric. She draws the pattern on the material, and the members cut out the stockings during club meetings. Three of the members then sew the stockings at home.

Making 400 stockings is just one of the jobs the Friendly Neighbors Extension Club members take on. Week after next, they’ll gather in the kitchen at the First Baptist Church to make Rice Krispi treats to put into the stockings, along with the popcorn balls and bags of candy that Nancy Walker and other volunteers will be making earlier that week.

Other volunteers will be working to operate the gift tables during the toy drive, escorting the parents through the gtables and gift-wrapping their selections then helping carry the gifts to their cars. A new addition this year is a table offering gently used Christmas decorations that parents may select from, Nancy said.

It’s a huge operation – one that operates completely with volunteer efforts and depends totally on community donations. Nancy, who shops the toy sales year round (and especially the after-Christmas sales), says donations seem to be down a little this year. But she isn’t worried. “God always provides,” she said, “and everybody is so kind.  I just appreciate them all so much, the willingness and kindness they’ve shown.”

To help, make checks payable to Ozark County Toy Drive and mail to chairperson Nancy Walker, 378 Harlin Dr., Gainesville, MO 65655. 



VFW’s Community Christmas dinner

At noon on Christmas Day, VFW Post #5366 in Isabella, with help from the AmVets chapter, will serve a free community dinner at the VFW hall on HH Highway in Isabella. 

Facility manager Ruby Winslow said everyone – veterans and others – are invited to the meal. If advance arrangements are made, meals can also be delivered to nearby residents or prepared for pickup. 

Donations of cash and food are needed for this free community meal. Winslow says the VFW greatly appreciates those who are able to prepare and deliver salads, sides and desserts to the facility the day before the holiday – or who can donate a turkey or ham three days beforehand to be cooked at the VFW. 

Those planning to donate food are asked to call the VFW (273-5008) so its staff knows what’s coming. To send a tax-deductible cash donation, make checks payable to Isabella VFW Post 5366 and mail to P.O. Box 323, Isabella, MO 65676. 

Ozark County Times

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PO Box 188
Gainesville, MO 65655

Phone: (417) 679-4641
Fax: (417) 679-3423