Santa Claus made his way into Bricktown (Oklahoma City) and the American Banjo Museum, Sunday, December 10. It was a very special occasion, as not only was it a Candy Cane Christmas but it had a special meaning, of the true spirit of Christmas and the gift of giving!
You might be asking what is the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner? Ernest Andrews (Red Andrews) was promoting boxing matches at the Stockyards Coliseum in the 1940s when he discovered the living conditions of some of his young parking lot workers in the Mulligan Flats area. Some of them stayed in one-room houses with mud floors. Moved to help these families find joy during the holidays, he invited them to participate in a Christmas dinner.
Because of the ongoing needs of the city’s less fortunate families, Andrews built the dinner into a tradition, one that continued long after his death in 1977. “The community embraced it, and we’ve since grown to serve over 8,000 people,” said Mary Blankenship Pointer, Red Andrews Christmas Dinner secretary and treasurer. “It’s had a ripple effect as people invited people, and it just grows and grows and grows. It’s now one of the largest community dinners in our region.”
Not only does the entire state of Oklahoma back the Red Andrews Dinner, but the American Banjo Museum played their role in the spirit of giving. ABM had a live show featuring banjoist Johnny Baier. Playing to a full house, in fact standing room only, Baier performed a plethora of Christmas tunes, known by most. With full audience participation, Baier performed oldies, such as Sleigh Bells, to “one-liners” of Mr. Grinch. Probably the fan favorite, since it was performed twice, was Jingle Bells. Several younger generation musicians performed on the stage with Baier, assisting with the bells.
Young assistant Coen from OKC, summed the day up the best, “It was fun, but the reason we came was so other kids that can’t have Christmas get to.” Coen, his Mom, and siblings brought a new unwrapped toy for the event, and in return got in for free.
With a knot in my throat, I tried to finish up my interview with Coen, age 7, by asking him how it was to perform on the stage. “I didn’t come here to be on the stage, I came here to give.” Now that’s the Christmas Spirit!