“What does a gingerbread man put on his bed? A cookie sheet!”
Gerry Di Leo won a chorus of groans when he served that joke to everyone who gathered to sing carols in Glen Stewart ravine last month with the Salvation Army band.
But jokes, even crummy ones, are just what carollers need on a cold night, says Nancy Palmer, who started the annual Carolling in the Park 25 years ago this past December.
“We’ve been through rain, through falling snow, through mild, mild, mild,” Palmer said the day after this winter’s event. “I think last night was the coldest night we’ve ever seen.”
Donna Dolan plays the cornet, a brass instrument slightly smaller than a trumpet, for the Salvation Army Scarborough Citadel Band.
At the carolling, she stuck skier’s heat pads on it to try and keep the valves from freezing. They froze anyhow, she said, but luckily not until just after the band’s closing number.
First with band master Fred Creighton, and now Steve Brown, the Scarborough band has played in Glen Stewart every year, Palmer said, and they have since expanded the tradition to a park in Leaside.
That is where Jim McKnight, now a minister for Northlea United Church and the first emcee at the Beach Carolling in the Park, started a similar night three years ago.
“They stole the idea, just as we stole the idea from Port Credit,” said Palmer, explaining how her sister invited her to a lake side carolling that has piped up every Christmas there since 1975.
Palmer says it’s a simple recipe that keeps the crowds coming – hot chocolate from local Scouts, a fun mix of carols and songs, and a beautiful ravine park tucked away from city traffic and neon lights.
“It’s magical,” she said. “And oh, the fun and games we had to get those lights in the trees.”