Buice column: Christmas gets brighter in Bermuda Run
Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 1, 2022
Remember the Christmas of 2020 — the year of COVID — and how things were then?
Rosanne Peacock does. She recalls heading down the road to the interstate in Bermuda Run with her husband, Ken, and having feelings many others shared during those days.
“We realized how dark it was,” she said. “We all had been through a lot. We all wore masks. You know, we were lonely. We wanted people. We wanted Christmas. We wanted the holidays.”
And a tree.
That turned out to be the spark for a new tradition in the town — placing a Christmas tree atop the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Davie Medical Center building.
Peacock said that it all came to pass after she and a couple of her friends — Sharon Reid and Christy Schafer, who since have become to be known as the TREE-O — sought out Mayor Rick Cross and the council, and they decided to move the plan forward to brighten the landscape.
“When you drove down (N.C.) 801, you could see the Christmas tree right there,” Peacock said. “And it was something to kind of lift your spirits and provide a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The holiday project took on more meaning in the community by also raising money for a local charity (it will be A Storehouse for Jesus this year) and a hospital employee assistance fund with those wishing to participate buying a light for the tree for $10 or a star for $50 to honor or remember someone special.
This year’s 3rd Annual “Light up the Night” will be Dec. 1 (tonight) when the rooftop tree and lights, which can still be purchased through Dec. 31, will be illuminated at the Davie Medical Center location (Plaza 1) in Bermuda Run at 6 p.m.
The lighting of the tree in 2020 also spawned the first Christmas in the Town of Bermuda Run celebration last year. So the town’s 2nd annual Christmas event will be held on Sunday from 2 p.m to 5 p.m. at The Gazebo Town Square.
“The hospital tree was the first, and then the town event grew out of it,” Peacock said of the now two traditions that hopefully will continue through and beyond the pandemic.
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When I decided to get a history lesson a few years ago and join a group of fellow explorers for the Shallow Ford Walk, I’ll readily admit I wasn’t aware of what I would learn on that day.
For instance, I didn’t know that area of the Yadkin River served as a link in the Great Wagon Road and the site of the Battle of Shallow Ford, which was an important victory for the Patriots forces in 1780 and considered one of the turning points of the American Revolution.
The Shallow Ford also served as a crossing by Gen. Charles Cornwallis and the British Army in 1781 and later the site of the Civil War skirmish, Stoneman’s Raid, in 1865 where Gen. George Stoneman’s Union troops crossed the Yadkin at the Shallow Ford.
We checked out the crossing from both sides of the river that day and imagined what it must have been like through the 18th and 19th centuries when it was a key link as heavier wagons, stagecoaches and artillery could safely cross the Yadkin River there.
On that day, I also heard about a movement to preserve some farm land bordering the Shallow Ford on the Forsyth County side of the Yadkin River. Not only that, but Jim and Jean Messick owned a 246-acre tract and had made the decision years ago to transfer the property to the Winston-Salem Foundation via a gift deed with a goal of preserving it.
It involved lots of moving parts to ultimately make it happen, including the efforts of Andy Kelly, who became a Sons of the American Revolution member in 2017 and was inspired to try to preserve land in the area since it seemed to be in the same condition as during the American Revolution.
His connection with Mike Leonard of the Conservation Fund, and through the help of many contributors, paved the way for that group purchasing the land two years ago. Then, with funds appropriated from the General Assembly and a grant from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund, the State of North Carolina purchased the Yadkin River property from the Conservation Fund in September.
A small deed transfer ceremony for stakeholders and representatives is scheduled at the site on Dec. 13 with tentative plans for a public event in the spring. No firm date for a public opening has been set, but much of the work is anticipated to be completed over the course of 2023.
So thanks to the generosity of Jean and her husband, Jim, who passed away in 2014, what used to be home is in the process of becoming a park to officially be called “Shallow Ford State Historic Site.”
While the state is in the process of finalizing designs and plans for the site, Jean Messick said that although she was pleased that the old farm property will be preserved, she didn’t know about any specifics but hoped “there would be some bluebird houses and a few flowers out there.”
Perhaps the stakeholders can save a small area on the property to make that happen. After all, without the Messicks and others behind them wanting to preserve the land, there wouldn’t be a historic site.
Like Mike Leonard of the Conservation Fund once said, “If you know about the Revolutionary War, you know about the significance of this. There were five fords that came into play, and of those five, the only one that remains in the state it was in back in 1781 is the Shallow Ford.
It offers the perfect place in North Carolina to tell this important story. Plus this property contains one of the best preserved sections of the Great Wagon Road. If not for the Messicks, this never would have happened.”