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Review of holiday events, activities

January 1, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer , The Herald-Star

Where did the Christmas holiday go? The weeks of December seemed to fly by so fast, and now January is here. It arrived with no parties, dinners, cookie and coffee visits at the home of friends and relatives and no presents piled high in the spare bedroom waiting to be delivered or put under the tree for the visit of the grandchildren.

Looking back over the past two weeks, I have attended two great shows and ate some traditional Italian food at the Christmas Eve party of my daughter-in-law's mom and stepdad, Dorene and Nick Zanke, in Bellaire. And of course, the McCoy Christmas dinner with all the silly games I have everyone play afterwards to keep the men away from the sports events on television.

The first event was when Mary Koos asked me to attend the third-annual Indian Creek High School Talent Show just before school vacation, as her daughter, Larissa Sharp, was one of the 10 contestants. I got to meet Doreen Westlake at that time, too.

I was amazed at the range of talent of the patricians.

Jessica Glasure, a senior, the vocalist who was the people's choice winner, has a great voice. She sang a song by Bruno Marrs, a dedication song to Amy Winehouse.

The overall winner was the comedian duo of the "Stud Muffins," Austin Thompson and Dustin Terpenning. Austin also doubled with Brooke Piergallini as the show hosts, who introduced and interviewed the contestants.

Just like on the Academy Awards, Brooke changed outfits with every introduction, and there were some gorgeous outfits. "It was lots of work, but it all came together well," she said of the show.

Other participants were Abigail Demko, a freshman, who sang one of my favorites, "I Hope You Dance." I wrote a story to our grandson, Jackson, when he was born, using some words from that song, such as "I hope you never lose your sense of wonder, and I hope you still feel small when you see the ocean."

Jeff Stephen, a senior, played more drums than I could even count for his talent, and Stephen Westlake, a freshman, who is self taught, played a turquoise, electric guitar that was built by him and his dad.

Nika Terry, a sophomore, sang and so did Angel Villabos, a junior, who sang a song by artist Pink. Tina Hopkins, a senior with two years of dance instruction, gave a ballet performance with very graceful arm movements.

A duo of Thomas and Ryan got a great reaction from the school crowd when the singer threw off his jacket and did a few high leaps to the guitarist's playing.

I left Larissa, a freshman, until last because she was the reason I was there. She sang "A Moment Like This," and again a line from the song caught my attention: "Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this." I think we all have those special moments that come along only once. I think this was one for Larissa's mom, Mary. We were all proud of her.

The French Carolers came on to perform until the judges had made their decision. There were some rather intriguing and strange costumes. There was Santa, of course, a few of his elves, French dancers, a religious person, a cook, a king, a girl wearing rabbit ears and characters from "The Night Before Christmas" book such as dad in his night shirt and cap.

I saw Julie Robinson, home economics teacher and Key Club adviser, and remembered Donna Minor from the days when we had a Herald-Star office in Cadiz and she was a teacher and drama coach there. Brooke tells me that she came back especially to direct the show.

Jene Watkins, a Smithfield High graduate, and I had a short talk on the teachers we thought made a big difference in our education. Of course, there was Octa Foster as No. 1, along with Helen Monaco, Clyde Sutherland and Wayne Naylor.

Just before Christmas, Lamont took me to see the B.E. Taylor Christmas Show as a belated birthday present. He made the audience "Feel the Love of Christmas," just as the song he started the show with had declared.

Taylor introduced Rick Witkowski, who he called "the Wizard of Weirton." He did some fancy dancing and guitar playing and played drums during one of the Christmas carols as well.

Another member of his band was Jeff Peterson, who sings the National Anthem for the Penguin games. And there were many Penguin fans in the crowd.

Taylor had the audience take part with the singing of many of his songs and asked those who served in the military to stand and be recognized in appreciation for all they had done for our country.

The drum corps of John Marshall and Wheeling Park high schools came playing and marching onto the stage for "Little Drummer Boy." I think this was the song. I didn't write much down and now my mind is fuzzy.

The Triadelphia Middle School students performed and were in perfect unison clapping and swaying for their Christmas number. Brenda Danehart of WTRF TV, who was seated next to Lamont, pointed out her son, who was singing in the group. Mike Anthony was seated in back of Lamont.

Taylor pointed out that the group is not a band 365 days a year. "Some have studios or other bands, one even coming from Los Angeles to be a part of the band. "But we all commit November and December to touring with the show," he said.

A portion of the show proceeds goes to the Wheeling Soup Kitchens, Taylor noted.

Another commitment of the band each year is to play for a pre-game show at Heinz Field before a Pittsburgh Steelers game. This was done at the Steelers-Rams game on Saturday and was the ninth year for their performance.

Taylor, a native of Aliquippa, brought with him the Church in the Round choir from that city. Dressed in white choir robes with red trim, they sang like heavenly angels and ended the program with the B.E. Taylor entourage.

I ate calamari, smelts and baccala on Christmas Eve.

We were invited to the Zanke home, where at least 40 relatives came and went throughout the evening. I have never seen such a group of happy and devoted-to-family people. It was wonderful.

Nick Zanke makes the best Italian spaghetti sauce. I tried his deep fried calamari and smelts and found them to quite good. I stayed away from the stuffed and baked calamari though. Lamont isn't adventurous so he stayed with the pasta, meatballs and sausage. Need I say that wine was flowing with every course as well. I think that I like Italian Christmas Eve celebrations!

Jay, Margaret, Amber, Jessie and Matthew came in on Saturday evening and wanted Ozzie kept in our bedroom when they camped out on the living floor. They chose the floor rather than opening the couch that can double as a bed.

A tradition we have kept since they were little has been to leave the Christmas tree lit throughout the night. Back in the early days, it was so Santa could see but it has lasted throughout the years. Jay and Matthew had that to contend with, too.

Matthew and Amber were of great assistance to me in the kitchen. Matthew and I crushed potato chips for the topping of the broccoli casserole and probably ate as many as we smashed. The same for the canned french fried onions for the green bean casserole. I wanted to make mine as good as Angelina Dickson did for our newsroom Christmas party.

Maggie wanted to serve a glass of water from our water dispenser to everyone present. Problem is, not everyone wanted water, and I found glasses of water all through the house. The little 4-year-old has always had a fascination with our water cooler. We would turn it around backwards when she was smaller but now she just puts herself in between the cooler and the wall, pushes the tab and water runs all over the kitchen.

I use games we receive on our bus trips to keep the crowd occupied and when that is over, we play a game something like bingo with cards. As I call a card, they put it down and the one to get rid of his or her hand first gets a whole $1 bill. It goes on until the money runs out. The younger ones like this game very much.

The house was strangely quiet after everyone left. Even Ozzie was worn out from all the outings and chasing the ball.

Darin can manage something with Ozzie that we haven't been able to do - take Ozzie out without a leash. The time I tried it, he took off running next door and picked a fight with the neighbor's dog.

Of course, Darin started out with Ozzie as a puppy. It was when work hours got longer and children came on the scene, that they needed to give him up. And we became the lucky owners.

We're lucky on days when his friendliness is catchy and not so lucky when he wakes one of us in the middle of the night to go outside. And then decides he just wanted to sniff around for the wildlife that comes up to our patio in the dark hours.

Now there will be time to read the four or five books I have been saving up for the long dark hours of winter. Times when it is so bad we can't take Ozzie out for long walks at Friendship Park.

Then, our cozy Lazy-Boy chair, a cup of tea, my Snuggie and a book might not sound so bad after all.

Happy New Year, everyone.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and the Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at

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