Rather than criticize, be proactive

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The Washington County Chamber of Commerce recently announced it would no longer host the Sugarplum Festival, which has kicked off the holiday season in Blair for nearly the last two decades.

The festival was last held in 2019. It was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision to end the event was made by the chamber's board of directors.

“After discussing with our members and regular participants in the Sugarplum Festival, the Board of Directors has decided to no longer have the event,” the board said in statement. “Businesses are still struggling in many ways. Especially now, we ask that you continue supporting businesses by shopping local.”

Undoubtedly, this upset many residents who have enjoyed this event year after year. But rather than complain, this should be an opportunity to reinvent or create something new.

Two of Washington County's other communities — Arlington and Fort Calhoun — host tree lighting ceremonies.

Fort Calhoun has celebrated the start of the holiday season this way for years. The event takes place in West Market Square Park. Prizes are given away and hot chocolate and cookies are served.

Arlington residents organized their ceremony in Village Park for the first time in 2020. Community members decorated the tree, took photos and also enjoyed hot chocolate.

Blair could organize something similar while keeping some elements from the Sugarplum Festival.

A few years ago, the city purchased a Christmas tree display, which is placed at the Veterans Tribute Plaza each year. That display could be erected at Blair City Hall, where a large evergreen tree once stood, and a lighting ceremony could be held. This would allow the Blair Volunteer Fire Department's soup supper to continue in the South Fire Station and the Blair Area Community Band could still perform Christmas carols.

Additional activities including the horse-drawn carriage rides could also take place. Kids could still meet Santa and get their photo taken in the Blair City Council chambers. The parking lot could be a viable space for any vendors who may want to take part.

Clearly, something like this can't be accomplished without the effort from several volunteers. But rather than criticize a decision, residents — or even city officials — should take it upon themselves to make something happen.

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