Annual Reed-Hembree party keeps caroling alive

Becky Burch
Special to the Journal-Capital
Elizabeth and Greg Hembree and Debbie and Ron Reed are the founders of the Annual Reed-Hembree Christmas Caroling Party held each year in Pawhuska.

Oklahoma is blessed with rural communities with huge hearts, especially during the holidays. Almost out of a nostalgic 1950s holiday movie comes Pawhuska’s version of the perfect Christmas scene - the Annual Reed-Hembree Christmas Caroling Party. The event’s 29th year was celebrated Monday, Dec. 19 and boasted 70 participants.

The event is named for friends Ron and Debbie Reed, and Greg and Elizabeth Hembree after they started the first event when their children were young, hoping then that the old tradition of caroling would continue through the younger generation.

This year's 70 carolers loaded up in cars and a church van bound for the American Legion Post 198 and the Pawhuska Hospital, as well as a few houses in between.

The Pawhuska Hospital halls were filled with carolers, so both patients and staff could hear and sing along with Christmas classics. 

“To sing our carols really warms my heart. I see wonderful expressions on people’s faces,” Debbie Reed said. “The hospital staff said they were grateful and happily surprised about the amount of people who attended.”

In the past, snow storms, frigid temperatures and even COVID-19 didn’t stop the event. During the pandemic, the singing was pre-recorded at the Bartlesville Radio station and aired over the radio as cars drove through Pawhuska.

Carolers line the walls in the Pawhuska Hospital on Dec. 19 during the annual Reed-Hembree Christmas Caroling Party.

“I’m just a cowboy," Ron Reed said with a choke in his voice, “but Heaven knows we all have our difficulties. The Christmas caroling mood is so jubilant, but there are times when we see people tear up.” He said he’s happy to be able to make a difference in someone’s life.

Elizabeth Hembree echoed Ron Reed’s sentiment. 

“I wonder if we don’t get more joy from the caroling than those we are singing to. It just makes you smile and it’s very heart warming. It’s truly a blessing,” she said

After the caroling, folks met up for Christmas snacks and plenty of hot chocolate. Gifts and prizes were given out as well. The group is already planning for the 30th Christmas caroling party next December.