NEWS

Crowd huddles together to enjoy Journal Star Family Christmas Sing

Jordan Wilson

As she sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Pat Tillman’s face exuded happiness while she hopped to the beat.

About 40 years ago, she was doing the same thing.

For Tillman and many others, The Journal Star Family Christmas Sing on Monday night was a trip down memory lane. More than 150 people brushed off the 19-degree weather to sing Christmas carols in the Peoria County Courthouse Plaza.

Nostalgia aside, the Peoria woman couldn’t help but to get in the holiday spirit.

"I’m not very good at singing, but I like Christmas," Tillman said.

She said when she was little, she used to attend the sing with her parents. This year, she said she dragged her sister-in-law, Gwen Wilson, to the event and would have brought her daughters if they weren’t working.

Wilson, standing near the back of the plaza, pointed to the people gathered in front of her. They all sang and conversed together.

"Christmas is the one time of the year when people are truly kind to each other," she said.

While the sing marked its 60th year in Peoria, Jim Maloof made his 40th appearance as the song leader. Last year would have been the real estate broker and former mayor’s 40th showing, but he was recuperating from a car accident.

Nearly concealed by his stocking hat and coat, Maloof addressed the crowd between songs.

"You’re a brave crowd to be here in (the cold)," he said.

Behind Maloof, the words to each song were projected onto a large screen so all could participate. For those too young to read, Santa Claus and the Shrine Funmaker Clowns spread some holiday cheer.

Many shivered and huddled together during the sing.

Sharon Gallup had plenty of space. As Maloof belted out the words to "Winter Wonderland," she and her granddaughter, Abby Gallup, danced to the music with feet sliding over snow.

The Peorians both wore Santa Claus hats and lipped the words to the song.

For Sharon Gallup, who has been to the event three straight years, this year’s sing was all about family. In all, she was accompanied by four grandchildren, her husband, son and daughter-in-law.

"The kids and grandkids came, so I wanted to join them," she said.

On top of a ledge just feet away, two of her other grandchildren tossed snow at each other and darted across the snow-covered plaza.

Abby Gallup said she enjoyed the Christmas lights draped from the bare trees and liked singing some familiar holiday tunes.

Jordan Wilson can be reached at (309) 686-3251 or jwilson@pjstar.com.