Celebrating the holiday season

Years ago, Connie Dougherty, the executive director of the Hub City Senior Citizens Center, used to hold the center’s annual open house in her home.

“I just couldn’t believe how much I loved it,” she said, about having so many people in her home. 

Besides food, Dougherty said she and her husband, Ken, would serve beer and wine to their guests. The late Chuck Milotte, a long-time local bartender who called bingo games at the center for many years,  always had a beer.

“He always said it was the only beer he’d have all year,” Dougherty said, adding that he only liked a certain brand so they always made sure they had it on hand for him.

The turnouts were so big, Dougherty said, she had to pull out the beds in her upstairs bedrooms to accommodate everyone. Eventually, the turnouts were so huge, she had to transfer the open house to the senior center, at 401 Cherry Ave., which is where it was held this past Friday night as part of Rochelle’s annual Christmas Walk.

Apparently, it was a good thing she did.

Approximately 150 people were served a free meal of chicken gravy and biscuits, peas, and apple cobbler, along with coffee, hot cider and water. Following dinner, Jay Burlison performed a number of songs solo on guitar while Dougherty wondered though the room with a tray of snickerdoodle cookies.

“It was wonderful,” Dougherty said of the whole event, which ran from 4 to 7 p.m.

Approximately 20 volunteers pitched in, which Dougherty said she couldn’t have done this without them.

It was the same kind of turnout a few blocks away at the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library where about a hundred children of all ages were treated to a varety of cookies and hot cider. Some of the younger ones made candy cane antler ornaments while a couple even got a little lesson from library director Sarah Flanagan on antlers and how long it takes for them to grow..

“It was a good evening,” she said. “There were a lot of kids and families here.

Flangan said the annual open house has been going on for about 15 years.

Both Dougherty and Flanagan said they thought the cold temperatures might keep the crowds down this year, but that didn’t seem to be the case.