We felt Robert’s presence at Strollstice

Art Carmichael, downtown resident and enthusiast, keeps his candle burning in the rain.

Art Carmichael, downtown resident and enthusiast, keeps his candle burning in the rain.

When I downloaded my photos from Tuesday night’s “Strollstice,” I examined them very carefully. I half expected to see the late Robert Loest in some of them. Maybe standing on the skirts of the crowd or something like that.

I didn’t. But, let me assure you, his spirit definitely was present that rainy, cold evening. That’s why many of us were there. Robert and his friend Charles Finney spearheaded the first Strollstice — just a downtown candlelight walk on the winter solstice, really — last year. (Click here to read about it.) Then Robert suddenly passed away shortly thereafter, leaving his friends and downtown acquaintances stunned and saddened.

There was no doubt in most of our minds that we would be there again this year, gathering at the big bell in Market Square with Robert large in our thoughts. The newspaper said there were 45 people. When I counted, the group was a little larger. And I know one more was present; we just couldn’t see him.

Patricia Benton and Brent Minchey folding the lyric sheets for Christmas carols the strollers would sing.

Patricia Benton and Brent Minchey folding the lyric sheets for Christmas carols the strollers would sing.

Charles Finney giving an interview about Strollstice to WBIR.

Charles Finney giving an interview about Strollstice to WBIR.

Bill and Gay Lyons were all bundled up. I told them they looked cold. Gay took offense.She thought I said they looked "old!" Ha!

Bill and Gay Lyons were all bundled up. I told them they looked cold. Gay took offense. She thought I said they looked "old!" Ha!

Jesse Mayshark has his song sheet and is waiting for the crowd to assemble.

Jesse Mayshark has his song sheet and is waiting for the crowd to assemble.

Charles reads a blessing of the candles.

Charles reads a blessing of the candles.

Laura Still, center, joins in a moment of silence in memory of Robert.

Laura Still, center, joins in a moment of silence in memory of Robert.

Ian Blackburn is ready to start. He was here last year, too.

Ian Blackburn is ready to start. He was here last year, too.

Strollstice steps off with Brent Minchey leading the way north on Market Square.

Strollstice steps off with Brent Minchey leading the way north on Market Square.

Past the vendors.

Past the vendors.

Past the ice rink.

Past the ice rink.

The Market Square Christmas tree was a great stop.

The Market Square Christmas tree was a great stop.

On to Gay Street, headed south.

On to Gay Street, headed south.

There was a lot of camaraderie among the strollers.

There was a lot of camaraderie among the strollers, many of whom were strangers to each other.

Judy Loest, Robert's widow, and Jack Neely on Gay Street.

Judy Loest, Robert's widow, and Jack Neely on Gay Street.

East on Clinch

East on Clinch

Crossing State Street

Crossing State Street

A stop at the cemetery next to First Presbyterian Church. "Judy likes cemeteries," someone explained.

A stop at the cemetery next to First Presbyterian Church. "Judy likes cemeteries," someone explained.

At the intersection of Church Ave. and State St. (Love that address!)

At the intersection of Church Ave. and State St. (Love that address!)

A while later headed north on Walnut St.

A while later headed north on Walnut St.

The procession ended back up on Market Square. It lasted less than an hour. Then everyone scattered to either watch the Tour de Lights decorated bicycle parade or grab something to eat or drink. I met some folks and went to the Tennessee Theatre to hear the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra‘s Christmas concert, which was fantastic.

I think Robert would have been proud of all the things going on downtown and all the people there — even in the cold and the rain. But I think he would have liked Strollstice best of all.

To read the News Sentinel’s report on Strollstice, click here. To see some photos of it on Metro Pulse’s Facebook page, click here.

4 Responses to “We felt Robert’s presence at Strollstice”

  1. I LOVE hearing – and seeing about all the events taking place downtown. Even when I can’t get to them, it’s great to know about these events and sense the energy!!

  2. The Blue Streak is the next best thing to being there. And even when I’m there, Cynthia always manages to find something I missed. Look forward to Strollstice 2011.

  3. Thanks, Glo and Gay! You gals add great energy to Knoxville by supporting so many things here. Love the camaraderie in our great town.

  4. THAT PIC OF Judy and Jack is just THE BEST. (Sorry for shouting.) Get what you mean about Robert being there. It shows in all you have written here and in the photographs. Somehow, I imagine there were bicycle skid marks along the paths taken. Too dark to see, but surely they are there. Viva walking and literacy and friendships.

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