There are toy drives and food drives, but for Jenn Noon and Cortney Dawson, their sights are on the third annual Bob’s Christmas Car Day drive that is to parade through the city this weekend.
An idea that was sparked by Dawson’s then-four-year-old son Maddox, the decorated cars are in loving memory of Bob Zeagler. Maddox was watching television and saw decorated cars driving around, and he asked his mom why they can’t also do that. Despite the fact that COVID had hit hard, rendering everyone indoors, there was no good reason why people couldn’t drive in their own separate vehicles. So Dawson and Noon started talking about it and floated the idea on social media, and before they knew it an event was born.
Zeagler was a well-known local character who enjoyed not only dressing up his Jeep Wrangler for various holiday occasions but also himself — sporting bows and ribbons, ornaments and novelty figurines of the particular season. His Jeep was a fixture of Batavia, and the roof toppings usually jutted out above other vehicles in amusing flamboyancy. He died in 2016.
The organizers wrote a poem last year to tell the story — in holiday fashion — of how and why this event originated. It may be best to tuck yourself into a stuffed armchair next to a fireplace to read:
Twas a week before Christmas — 2020 in the house
Everyone in lockdown — Even the mouse.
A little boy watching TV — decorated cars driving around
He suddenly turned and asked “why can’t we do that? — And drive around town.
So his mom went online — And asked if anyone down
To decorate their cars — And drive all around.
The operator of the little free pantry — Replied and so eager
Told the little boys mom — About a man named Bob Zeagler.
So they began to plan it all out — With permission from Bob’s wife
One little boy helped bring — Bob’s spirit back to life.
People, they came — To honor one man
Who always made others smile — The best that he can.
We remember is humor — His style and grace
So many miss him, — Miss seeing his face.
They miss seeing his outfits — The whole year through
A man who was so — Honest and true.
One tiny boy — And a few tiny words
Created something wonderful — For All other boys and girls.
To remember that man — That every one knew
So to the holiday man — Merry Christmas to you.
“Bob used to be a great friend of mine,” Noon said, adding that she had previously thought that he deserved some type of citywide honor for the entertaining role he played. “Cortney’s son saw the cars on TV … and it has just taken off. Anyone who wants to participate is more than welcome to.”
In fact, the more cars, the merrier, she and Dawson said. Participants are to show up at 4 p.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia. If you need decorations, they will be provided at that time. The parade is then to proceed at 4:30 p.m. along a route throughout pre-selected city streets.
“The event was started in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic as a way to bring Christmas cheer to those who were stuck at home on quarantine,” Noon said. “This year, the event will start with a Christmas car drive around town, with cars decorated in the style of Bob’s always festive Jeep. The route will include stops at the VA and nursing homes, as well as other locations in town.”
Beyond the fun of a parade, Noon, who works at the Little Free Pantry next to the church, took the event further with an after-party from 6 to 8 p.m. Kids can visit with Santa Claus and pick out a toy, and there will be refreshments available.
“This event will include refreshments, such as cocoa, cookies, cakes, and pies, as well as food and clothing giveaways. There will also be a visit from Santa where kids and families are encouraged to take photos,” she said. “After visiting Santa, kids (up to 18) will be able to visit his workshop and pick out a toy or two to take home. There will also be music, games, and tables set up by community organizations offering free giveaways.”
The event is free and open to anyone in the community and is supported by community members and local small businesses, the organizers said.
Donations may be placed in drop boxes at First Presbyterian Church or Independent Living of the Genesee Region at 319 West Main St., Batavia, up to the day of the event.
File Photos of the 2020 car parade, by Stephen Ognibene. Photo of Bob Zeagler by Howard Owens.