Like a movable block party, the 44th annual Caroling and Potluck joyfully swept down two blocks of Midway Park Avenue in Austin last Friday past houses big and small. The multicultural crowd of about 30 grownups and kids stopped in front of each house, looking for people to join in singing “Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Joy to the World.”

George Manning, a retired UIC psychiatric medical research director and pipe organist, led the pilgrimage.  The caroling event, always held during the third week of December, started when his dad was terminally ill with cancer and people visited him for Christmas. George played the piano. 

To honor his dad, he continued the carol singing every year. For him, it’s a warmup for the Majesty Christmas pageant he directs each year as music minister with First Immanuel Lutheran Church at Ashland and Roosevelt.

The first stop is Mamie Andry’s house, where she serves cocoa and cookies — a tradition she says her mom started 35 years ago in this same house, where she grew up.

At the last stop, Leon and Jackie Williams host a big potluck table with all kinds of food, which the carolers bring. Sitting in Leon’s front-room library, he and George recall their early days in Austin.

“Everybody admires the houses around here, but it’s the people that are here for you,” says Leon. “In some areas to organize this type of thing, they’d have to send a bunch of emails, but here it just happens when we set out a flyer. People see it, they come and sing and bring food. It’s simple.”  

— Bonni McKeown