River Hills residents found many ways to celebrate the holiday season.

Each year, residents of the River Hills community look forward to a series of annual events they’ve come to know and love. Even during a pandemic, 2020 was no exception. The River Hills Social Team reminded everyone to mask up and maintain social distancing at each event and was pleasantly surprised with each event’s turnout.

First up on the calendar was an afternoon of cookie decorating at River Hills Country Club. The children showed off their culinary skills while The Cat in the Hat made a special guest appearance and read the children the Christmas classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Later that same day was the annual tree lighting ceremony. Always held on the Sunday night of Thanksgiving weekend, the timing was perfect for travelers returning from their long holiday weekend. After welcome remarks from HOA Vice President Dan Ross and from River Hills Country Club General Manager Bob Swezey, the feature entertainment was introduced. Director Jeffry Bogue once again put together an amazing performance by the Newsome High School Chorus and encouraged residents to sing along.

The very next morning, volunteer elves were busy retrieving four car-loads of decor from storage to bring holiday dazzles to the River Hills Country Club. The focal point was, of course, the 12-foot Christmas tree, adorned with a second layer of beautiful twinkling white lights, casting a lovely shimmer on the platinum, crystal, silver and pearl ornaments.

The decorating elves were happy to add new fresh snow last year, along with some curious elves peeking out from behind their trees. Beautifully wrapped packages adorned the magical tree, which provided the perfect backdrop for pictures with Santa and personal family photos as well—many of which are used for annual Christmas card photos.

Speaking of Santa…yes, he did make an appearance last year. In fact, he came twice in the very same day. On Sunday morning of December 6, he made a grand entrance in a bright red golf cart to surprise the children attending his special breakfast at River Hills Country Club. In addition to a yummy menu and pictures with Saint Nick, the sold-out crowd was generous in their donations of unwrapped toys benefitting Metropolitan Ministries.

Later that same night, Santa made another grand appearance on his bright red golf cart as the final entry in the annual River Hills Golf Cart Parade. The number of entries continues to grow each year, as does their creativity. Last year’s parade had a surprise appearance by the Newsome Drum Corps, which could be heard all through the neighborhood. And new for the event, parade spectators were allowed to vote for the first, second and third place winners via a voting app. Bright lights and technology really can mix.

On Thursday, December 10, which was the first night of Hanukkah, residents masked up and gathered (social-distanced, of course) on the grassy lawn in front of the 14-foot lighted Menorah. Rabbi Ron Goldberg made a repeat appearance from the year before, and did an awesome job explaining the menorah, the symbolism of the oil/lights and other Hanukkah factoids with the audience. He gave blessings over families’ personal menorahs and blessings over all those in attendance. While the blessings are always much-appreciated, the powdered sugar jelly-filled donuts might have been the highlight of the evening.

The following week, residents of the River Hills community along with other members of the River Hills Country Club were treated to a holiday mixer, complete with live entertainment, a champagne toast and an assortment of food stations (sushi, salads, fruit, raw bar, beef tenderloin, ham, pasta, grilled asparagus, desserts and Bananas Fosters cooked to order). Initially scheduled to be outside (but brought indoors due to inclement weather), the capacity was limited to allow for social distancing, and everyone seemed to appreciate the effort.

The next day was a special day for River Hills Cares, the giving-back initiative of River Hills Country Club and its membership. Earlier in 2020, River Hills Cares’ generosity provided meals to our frontline health care workers. This time, Swezey represented the membership by providing the food for the Lithia Springs Elementary School Staff Holiday Breakfast. In addition, the residents and members’ generosity provided for a special gift presented to each employee at the school.

Over the weekend of December 18-20, over 100 houses registered to compete in the River Hills House Decorating Contest. Using an app to score houses in all 18 villages, residents were able to drive around from 6-9 p.m. nightly to choose their favorites. Each village’s winning house received a River Hills Country Club gift certificate and, of course, the coveted bragging rights.