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Have you ever thought
How there are many signs that Christmas is drawing near?
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Newton County residents might as well associate the sounds of “hogs” with Christmas, as they do with reindeer or silver bells. That is because for the last 18 years the sound of motorcycles in Newton County has been a sign that Christmas is drawing near. Starting in 1999 there has been the “Toy Ride” sponsored by the Newton County Sheriff’s Office. This year the date of the ride is Dec. 10. The ride will start at the Kmart Shopping Center on Turner Lake Road with registration beginning at 9 a.m., with the starting time for the ride beginning at 10:30 a.m.

During his tenure as Sheriff, Ezell Brown has made the children of our county one of his priorities. He continues this priority as he starts his third term of four years. Thousands of “back to school packs” are given out before each new school year.  Also, each year through the funds raised through the “Toy Ride”, the goal is each child to have a wonderful Christmas. This is done by partnering with the Salvation Army as well as reaching out to the Sheriff’s “Guardian Angels.”

You can register on the day of the ride for $20 or one unwrapped toy. There is no additional charge for a passenger. Each entrant gets a free T-shirt and additional T-shirts will be for sale. There will be door prizes as well as a drawing you can enter. The Sheriff’s department expects about 125 to participate. Of course, the more the better.

For about 60 miles, the ride will be escorted by officers from the Newton County Office on motorcycles and in cruisers. Though the ride is a “rain or shine” event, weather could change the route or time of the ride. It will go throughout the county and end at the Church of Covington out on Highway 142, where lunch will be served.

Along with the sound of motorcycles rumbling through the county, there are many other traditions in our community that mark the approach of Christmas. On Thursday, Nov. 17, there was the lighting of the Christmas tree on the Square. There were performances by various choral groups as well as the Newton County Community Band. This coming Friday, Dec. 2, there will be the first of three special Friday nights, this first featuring the movie, “The Polar Express.” The other two will be “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Starting time for these Friday events will be at 6 p.m.

Another sure sign that Christmas is near is the annual Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Covington Lion’s Club. Floats from a variety of community groups and churches will join the bands as Santa is led around the Square. The parade will be on Saturday, Dec. 3, at 10:30 a.m. Again, this is a rain or shine event.

A new tradition this year is a presentation on the Square of the Nativity Christmas Story on Sunday, Dec. 11, with a presentation at 6 p.m., as well as another at 7:30 p.m.

Indeed, there is a great blend of sounds that announce Christmas is near to our community and an important part is the 18th annual Toy Ride. You can get more information on the Toy Ride by contacting Deputy Kimberly Cox at 678-625-1416 or, or Cpl. Jack Redlinger at 678-300-7877 or or Deputy Susan Young at 678-625-1417 or

If you enjoy riding a hog or whatever brand of bike, why not spend a day helping your community catch the spirit of the season as well enjoy the day.  You will know the effort will help make Christmas brighter for some children.

This is another great example of building a bridge of goodwill between the community and those in law enforcement.

B. Wiley Stephens is a retired United Methodist Minister and author who now resides in Covington.