Library's solstice celebration includes award presentation, music

Event will be highlighted by illumination of floor marker

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
The sun shines on a floor marker at the Farmington Public Library on Dec. 21, 2017, to mark the winter solstice.

FARMINGTON — When library director Karen McPheeters hands out the Farmington Public Library Foundation's annual Let There Be Light Award Friday afternoon, there's nothing about the act itself that will be new to her.

After all, McPheeters has presented the award — which honors individuals for their support and work on behalf of the library — numerous times over the years and is well acquainted with the procedure.

But McPheeters said the presentation of this year's award in memory of the late Priscilla Louise Sandlin will be different, albeit in a way she finds pleasing.

Typically, McPheeters said, she has presented the award to someone she knows very well. That wasn't the case with Sandlin, who died in August 2012 at age 89. McPheeters said she was familiar enough with Sandlin to recognize her during Sandlin's frequent visits to the library, but she said the two were not well acquainted.

That's because Sandlin seemed to keep a low profile, McPheeters said, explaining that Sandlin never felt the need to call attention to herself.

"I think that's one of the reasons why the library foundation wanted to recognize her," McPheeters said.

The Ashay Drummers perform during the winter solstice celebration onDec. 21, 2017, at the Farmington Public Library.

Sandlin was very quiet about her work in support of the library, McPheeters said, and her most significant gift — a donation of approximately $180,000 that was made from her estate about a year and a half after her death — came as an enormous and welcome surprise to library officials.

"I think one of the reasons they chose her was she was a very quiet person, but she wasn't a person who got a lot of recognition," McPheeters said, citing Sandlin's involvement in various community causes in addition to the library.

McPheeters laughed when she recalled the one personal characteristic of Sandlin's that she knew about.

"She was a ferocious bridge player," McPheeters said. "She went for the win."

But when it came to other aspects of her life, Sandlin apparently preferred a much different approach.

"As I was thinking about this (award) and thinking about all the people who come in here and use the library and love it and support it, here's someone who typified all that and worked hard for it, and yet, you would barely recognize her from another patron," McPheeters said,

Susan Otto listens to the music of the Ashay Drummers on Dec. 21, 2017, during the Farmington Public Library's annual winter solstice celebration.

That everywoman quality Sandlin possessed typifies the best aspects of the library's supporters, McPheeters said. She described the story of how Sandlin and her husband Sandy became Farmington residents in the first place — they decided to relocate to the area after their car broke down here during a trip to Nevada — as a "happy accident."

""To me, that shows that adventurous spirit … and I think that's fabulous," McPheeters said.

The award presentation will take place at approximately 12:10 p.m. Friday and is part of the library's annual winter solstice celebration. The event kicks off at 11:45 a.m. with a performance by the Ashay Drummers, followed by the observance of the sun shining on the winter solstice marker engraved in the library rotunda floor at noon. The event concludes with a concert of winter ballads by Scott and Johanna Hongell-Darsee at 1 p.m.

Library program coordinator Jenny Lee Ryan said the library's twice-yearly solstice celebrations are among its more popular activities, with the rotunda usually filled with visitors for the occasion.

"We call it the best five-minute party in town," she said.

The location of the summer and winter solstice markers that were etched into the library's sandstone floor when the facility was built were a feature painstakingly researched by the project architects, Hidell Associates Architects of Carrollton, Texas, she said. They were intended to complement another design feature of the building, its petroglyph duplications.

Ryan said the winter solstice celebration can be a hit-or-miss proposition, with the sun shining roughly half the time over the years at noon on Dec. 21. But even when skies are overcast, she said, the idea that longer periods of daylight are just around the corner seems to buoy everyone's spirits.

"We always hope for sunshine, but we still have a party whether we have sun or not," she said.

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Mike Easterling is the night editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.