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Frenchtown Natives Help Christmas Shine at Tree-Lighting Ceremony

Dec. 17, 2006 — A man who gathered the community together Friday night to celebrate Miracle on Main Street downtown came back to his roots in Frenchtown on Sunday.
"Close your eyes and think about those around you, those whose efforts have made Frenchtown special for us," said Joe Aubain, executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce. "Think about how this little fishing village has become the vibrant community it is today."
Aubain served as the main speaker Sunday night at the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, sponsored by the Frenchtown Civic Organization.
"It's just gone on almost ever since I can remember," said Henry Richardson, president of the Frenchtown Civic Organization. Though he couldn't say for sure, Richardson, who was born right around the corner, said 2006 is probably the ceremony's 47th year.
Aubain also came into the world in Frenchtown. "I was born right up the hill by the chapel," he said, pointing to the nearby St. Anne's Chapel. "I grew up here." He recalled his childhood and growing up in the village, with "the women always wearing their chapeaus."
Frenchtown holds a place of special significance on the island, Aubain said. "What other community celebrates Mother's Day, Father's Day, Bastille Day and the Christmas holidays?" he asked. "My message to you is simple: Keep our traditions alive, double the effort, keep the community alive."
After the ceremony, Aubain said he felt honored by the request for him to speak. "I love Frenchtown," he said.
Richardson, serving as master of ceremonies, kept the evening moving, as about 100 or so folks gathered in the parking lot under a magnificent 28-foot Christmas tree. Ms. Carenage, Amanda Greaux, lighted the tree. Les Enfants de Ste. Anne Youth Choir sang in sweet little voices, followed later by the Voices of Love under the direction of Glenn "Kwabena" Davis. The Rev. Neil Scantleberry delivered the invocation and benediction.
Leal Stridiron received thanks from Allan Richardson, Henry's brother and stalwart FTCO member, for helping trim the tall tree. "We couldn't do it without him," Richardson said, joking, "There's no way I can climb up there anymore." He also thanked Mr. and Mrs. Jean Berry for the donation of the tree.
Some of the crowd's smaller members got a restless after awhile. They were in wait for the evening's special guest, who didn't have to speak at all beyond a "ho, ho, ho."
Finally Santa arrived with bags and bags of presents, and the tots lined up, taking their gifts with big "oohs and aahs" as they discovered trucks, dolls, paint sets and stuffed animals.
The adults drifted toward the concession stand for the traditional ham and sweetbread, people danced and music rang out over Frenchtown Christmas 2006.
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