Thanksgiving has almost forever been my favorite holiday. The pace is right, the faces are familiar and relaxed, and — for those of us not charged with weaving the crust atop the pie or deviling the eggs — there is simply no pressure.
For more or less those same reasons, Mingle Jingle may have become my favorite Kilgore event.
I like the Christmas parade, KilGogh makes me think I’m cultured, the Oilmen’s Chili Cook-off is (mostly) gastronomically satisfying, Texas Shakespeare Festival makes me proud of our little town. The Pipe Organ festival, Reel East Texas Film Festival, fireworks in the park, Fridays After Five — I love them all; they all feel like Kilgore.
But Mingle Jingle...
Staged annually for the last decade or so on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Mingle & Jingle was planned with ‘homecoming’ in mind. Dozens, maybe even hundreds of Kilgoreos who left to develop careers elsewhere, come home to visit mom and dad, to catch up with old chums who either never left or are also here for the five-day weekend.
Main Street Kilgore, a municipal agency tasked with keeping downtown vital — protecting jobs and property values — concocted this event: Offer merchants an opportunity to display their goods and maybe make a sale, allow residents and their guests an evening to wander downtown for a meal, a coffee and a visit.
A Kilgoreo who’s become a friend, a friend with three or four adult years as a Kilgore resident, was here many years ago as a Kilgore College student and did a stint with the Shakespeare Festival. Twenty years back, she left for the big city. “What brought you back to Kilgore,” she was asked. Without pause, she answered, “Kilgore is a healing place.” Set upon by personal traumas, she looked for a place to quiet her heart and lower her blood pressure.
One can find pine trees hills and lakes in a million places but, she agreed “you can’t find this.” She gestured, a wide, sweeping arc that took in downtown. And us.
With his wife Kimberly, Otoneil Macedo owns Expert Lawn Service in Henderson. She’s the daughter of Carmel and Eleanor McElyea; though his career included many years here at Citizen Bank, Kimberly’s parents live in Henderson. Kimberly and Otoneil now live there, too.
Otoneil takes care of those gorgeous flowerbeds in the ‘neckdowns’ at the intersections on Main and Kilgore Street. And he does it for free. No charge.
He earns his living looking after flower beds and lawns. He and his crew maintain grassy areas for homeowners and businesses, including the City of Kilgore and for the Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation. But these corners are his personal mission. Why, I asked, invest the time and money it takes to turn ordinary corners into this... riotous colors and spreading foliage right for every seasons?
Easy. “I like it here and I want it to look nice.”
It’s a fine place to Mingle & Jingle.
Bill and his bride Jessica — She Who Generally Knows Best — are former publishers of the Kilgore News Herald. When not waxing smarmy about our hometown, he’s a part-time Municipal Archivist (upper case M and A, please and thank you) for the city.