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Christmas starts early in Richmond Hill
Citys annual celebration begins Friday with chili cook-off
Tommy Darieng

The three-day festivities of Richmond Hill’s 13th Annual Hometown Christmas Celebration begin Friday. Organizers are expecting a big turnout for events like the parade, the chili cook-off and the lighted boat parade.

"Preparations are going very well," said committee co-chairman Nancy Frye. "I predict another successful weekend of activities this year. Word has really gotten out about our hometown celebration, and it gets bigger and bigger each year."

This year’s parade marshal is Tommy Darieng, who has lived in Richmond Hill for 81 years. Dareing will be at the front of the parade line in a car accompanied by his family.

"I want to thank Mayor Richard Davis and the parade committee for choosing me," Darieng said. "It’s a great honor."

Darieng is the only living member of the very first Richmond Hill City Council, when the city was incorporated in 1962. It was Darieng who developed the marina and the park at Fort McAllister in the sixties. He is also credited for connecting the city to natural gas.

"I love Richmond Hill," he said. "It’s in my heartbeat. I thank God for letting me live to see Richmond Hill grow and develop at every step to become what it is today."

The theme of this year’s celebration is "Home for the Holidays", in reference to many local soldiers that are on leave for Christmas. True to that theme, the parade will feature military participants. Near the front of the parade route will be Fort Stewart head honchos Major General Tony Cucolo and Division Command Sergeant Major Jesse Andrews. They will be followed by the 3rd Infantry Division color guard, the 3rd ID band and soldiers of the 3rd Squadron and 7th Cavalry Regiment.

"This whole event is dedicated to the troops," said committee member Jan Bass. "We invite all local military and their families to come out and enjoy the events throughout the weekend."

The festivities will kick off Friday in the park with the chili cook-off, which is slated to go from 6-9 p.m. Bass said there are 19 contestants, which is more than usual.

In addition to chili, the event will feature a variety of other food, live music, a magician, face painting, a balloon artist, a caricature artist, inflatable rides, and pictures with Santa.

On Saturday, the day’s events begin with the parade, which starts at 10 a.m. at Richmond Hill Primary and Elementary schools and ends at J.F. Gregory Park.

Immediately following, the Fourth Annual Christmas Xtravaganza will get started at Station Xchange across the street from J.F. Gregory Park. This year, the event will feature a ‘winter wonderland’ with real snow, Christmas music, local performing artists, a petting zoo, photos with Santa, ornament making stations, a cookie decorating station, complimentary candy canes and hot cocoa.

On Saturday night, the spotlight will shift over to the Fort McAllister Marina for the Christmas on the Ogeechee lighted boat parade, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Awards will be presented to the best in show and attractions will include live music, food, and beverages after the parade.

On Sunday, the Richmond Hill Dance Theater will host ‘Santa’s Gift Shop’. Youngsters will be able to select gifts for their family members, with many selections available for $1-$5.

For more information, visit the City of Richmond Hill’s website at

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