Longtime Keizer residents and volunteers Trenda and Bud Staudenmier are grand marshals for next weekend’s parade. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

Being named grand marshals of next week’s Festival of Lights Holiday Parade surprised Bud and Trenda Staudenmier.

Then again, the couple is marking the holiday season this year with a sense of relief.

The Staudenmiers ran the Gubser Neighborhood Association’s Miracle of Christmas program for 11 years, handing over control after 2007 in order to spend more time with out-of-state family during the holiday season.

The couple was surprised to be informed by parade organizer Cheryl Mitchell they were named grand marshals for the parade, taking place in Keizer for a second time next Saturday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.

“I was shocked, just flabbergasted,” Trenda said. “We haven’t done the lights for five years. I kept asking Cheryl, ‘Really?’ We don’t do anything for the recognition. We like to volunteer.”

Last year the couple was not at the parade, but for good reason.

“I got hit in the face with a piece of steel at work, Peterson Cat,” Bud said. “I’ve been fine. I finally went back to work March 26.”

Trenda said her husband had surgery last Dec. 5 and faced a long recovery.

“We almost lost him,” Trenda said.

The fact Bud has recovered is enough to make the Staudenmiers jolly this holiday season. Being named grand marshals is simply the topping for the humbled couple.

“It’s always an honor to be chosen,” Bud said. “We’re not out to get recognition.”

For years, the Staudenmier family was out during the holiday season to get food donated to the Marion County Food Share.

“We loved working with Marion County Food Share,” Trenda said. “They said they needed someone to fill in one year and 11 years later we were still doing it.”

Each year, the Staudenmiers started working on the program in September. On Nov. 1, they sent out fliers to everyone along the route to remind them about Miracle of Christmas.

“That first year was learning about it,” Bud said. “By the second year, it was comfortable.”

Details included coordinating volunteers who help collect cans of food from passing cars each night and working with both the Keizer Police Department and Keizer Fire District. And oh yes, there was the issue of getting enough candy canes for everyone passing by.

“We got 12,000 candy canes each year,” Bud said. “Cash and Carry helped us out. We had to make sure we had enough.”

Over the years Trenda, a McNary High School graduate who met Bud in Portland in 1983, has seen how caring Keizer is during the holidays. One instance drove that point home.

“I remember one night a car coming down the road,” Trenda said. “It looked like the car was about to break down. The lady got out of the car and opened the trunk. The trunk was full of canned goods. That really touched me. People are so giving. That shows what people are made of.”

When the Staudenmiers started leading the program, their children were at home and helping out. Now, those same children live out of state. Thus, the couple wants to spend time with grandchildren during the holiday season.

“When you do the lights, you are stuck here all month,” Trenda said. “We needed to be able to see our grandkids and spend more time with them as they get older.”

That means travel, as the Staudenmiers aren’t about to leave the town Trenda has lived in since 1971.

“We are blessed to be in a community that cares about people,” she said. “The Christmas Lights is my favorite part, because it does so much for people. Christmas is about giving.”