Monday, December 2, 2013

Christa Christmas

The night after Christa McAuliffe died at age 37 in the Challenger explosion of January 28, 1986, I was speaking at a professional gathering of teachers in Magnolia, Ark. Of course we felt a connection with McAuliffe, the first teacher to have been launched into space. I modified my talk to give honor to her and the other crew members that were lost in that tragedy. (Later, while I was a dean in Florida, I visited the middle school named in her honor more than once.) In my audience that night in 1986 was a school administrator from El Dorado, Ark. who remained a respected colleague for many years and became my good friend. (His name is Kermit and he collects frogs.)

Fast forward 27 years. After not having seen him in many years, I discovered Kermit sitting across from me at a professional conference in Hot Springs. In a hallway conversation later, my friend learned that I was living in Washington, Ark. He said, “Dan, I am president of SARA and would you be interested in serving on our board.” SARA is the acronym for Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives. “Sure, I said, the facility is just a mile walk from my house.”

About this time last year, I got the official invitation and started attending the meetings. Christmas and Candlelight is the main fund-raiser for SARA and I was asked to coordinate the scheduling of the many musical groups who perform in buildings all over Historic Washington State Park the first two Saturdays in December. I have completed the task and there are some really special groups and individuals scheduled to perform December 7 and 14.

Visitors usually appear to be in awe of the natural beauty that the park’s candlelit streets provide as they stroll through this historic village. The charming old homes are adorned with pine cones, grapevines, magnolia, and evergreens. Decorations, music, and more set the mood for a truly historic holiday experience. Daylight tours from 1-5 p.m. Candlelight tours begin at 5 p.m. when thousands of luminaries are lit, and continue until 8 p.m. William's Tavern offers a Christmas buffet from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. You may also choose to enjoy a horse drawn surrey ride or shop the gift shops for that special holiday gift.

Date: December 7 and 14, 2013

Time: 1 pm - 8 pm

Admission: $10 adults, $5 children

Phone: (870) 983-2684


This year at Christmas and Candlelight, I plan to honor in the silence of my heart, the memory of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who gave her life to advance knowledge.

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