What started as a dream of bringing Christmas to her little town for one day has lasted a decade for one Garwood resident with the effort evolving into an organization that helps keep the community going.
Diane Smidovec, with the help of husband Larry and a stocking full of community members who all belong to the Garwood Association of Restoration (GAR), recently pulled off the 10th Annual “Christmas in Garwood.”
This year’s event featured an opening ceremony with the Citizens of the Year awards, a chili cook off and a washer pitch contest.
Garwood also got an appearance from Santa, a decorated little red wagon contest, a train ride and games for the kids and craft and food booths lined the street.
The festivities ended with a lighted Christmas parade.
“I can’t say enough about the hard work that all the members do for GAR. When you only have 10 members, it’s twice the work,” Smidovec said.
“I do believe that God leads you down the paths that he wants you to follow with things he wants you to do because that’s the only way I can think of how things fell into place for me to make this event happen,” she added.
GAR began with a Christmas parade, but in Sealy, according to how Smidovec tells the story. She and Larry pulled the float their granddaughter was on as Little Miss Colorado County.
“As you turned the corner, all you saw was people lining both sides of the street. I told Larry that I would like to do something like this for Garwood, get people to come to Garwood and bring Garwood back to life for at least one day.”
After Larry asked how she would do this, Diane’s answer was divine providence.
“I said well if it’s meant to be, a way will come along.”
“It was your town. Time goes by. Time brings changes. You change, too. Main Street isn’t Main Street anymore. Lights don’t shine as brightly as they shone before. Tell the truth. Lights don’t shine at all in our town anymore.”
“Our Town,” James Taylor
Inspired by the movie “Cars” where fictional vehicles try to keep their dying town alive as the new, major thoroughfare bypasses their community, Smidovec wants Garwood’s light to continue shining for generations to come.
Hence, GAR was born. GAR needed a home, so the Smidovec’s purchased a building from Alice Kallina. GAR needed members. Anita Meismer was tapped for her knowledge of how to conduct an official meeting and bylaws, plus “she’s an amazing woman who knows how to get things done.”
With Meismer came Ruby Hoffman, Helen Noteboom and Catherine Berger.
When someone would come into Larry’s convenience store, Diane would ask customers if they wanted to bring Garwood back to life for a day.
“I have to say a lot of people would laugh it off and say it would never happen,” Smidovec said.
But Bill Raley, Danny Hughes, Sheryl Carnes, Ruth Abel and Vestal and Becky Odem didn’t laugh at the notion with all saying they would be glad to help.
GAR members began meeting in September 2008, and by that December, they had themselves a Christmas event in Garwood.
“We started making my dream into a reality, and boy has it been a fantastic ride,” Smidovec said.
GAR arms have reached further than Christmas.
Since it began, the organization has honored Citizens of the Year, bought the town Santa a new suit, given scholarships to Rice Consolidated ISD seniors, purchased a ceiling fan for the Garwood Volunteer Fire Department and donated to the Garwood Library and to the Eagle Lakes Fourth of July fireworks show.
And the giving didn’t stop there. GAR started a chili cook off and washer pitch contest with the help of Tracy Floyd and John Schneider and Billy and Dawn Macek as DJs, and installed the “Welcome to Nada” signs in Nada.
GAR also honors Garwood’s veterans with “Flags For Veterans” and it keeps the Veterans Memorial mowed. To keep Garwood shining bright, GAR held fundraisers to get streetlights turned on, Smidovec said.
“GAR is trying to make a difference in our town with the street light project. That’s our biggest project,” she said.
“I’m trying to keep our town shining brightly as it did before because I love my town.”
GAR committee officers are: Larry Smidovec, president; Danny Hughes, vice president; Ruby Hoffman, secretary; and, Diane Smidovec, treasurer.
Other committee members are: Bill Raley, Sheryl Carnes, Catherine Berger, Debbie Kana, Misty and John Pierce, John and Audrey Schneider, Tracy and Lisa Floyd and Crystal and Shawn Evans.