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I’ve always thought it was a great idea.

What could a local television station do to get more involved in the community during the holidays, produce something people of all ages and economic backgrounds could enjoy and benefit those who need help this time of year?

That was the question facing WGHP-TV in early 1987. It’s when the station management team—namely General Manager David Boylan and Creative Services Director Karen Adams—came up with the first Triad Holiday Concert featuring the Greensboro Symphony to benefit The Salvation Army.

The marketing line was simple: come to the Greensboro Coliseum, donate some non-perishable food and enjoy a great holiday program free of charge.

I vividly remember Adams driving co-anchor Cynthia Smoot and me to the Greensboro Coliseum after the 6 p.m. News that night about a week before Christmas 34 years ago.

In the car, we ate takeout food from the Howard Johnson’s Restaurant across the street from the TV station. Cynthia and I would go on to co-host the program in front of just a few thousand people. I can’t remember how much food was collected, but I remember being surprised by the amount.

In fact, the Greensboro Concert became so successful we added a second concert in the series featuring the Winston-Salem Symphony two or three years later.

By the time the series was a decade old, each program was attended by well more than 15,000 people.

By the time the series was 20 years old, people started telling me they “grew up” attending the concerts.

I’ve been honored to be a part of all of them except three: the Greensboro and Winston-Salem Concerts in 1999 when our youngest child was born hours before the start of the first program that year—and a Greensboro Concert in the late 2000s on the night of a major winter storm. (The station needed me to anchor the late news in the studio that night.)

The pandemic threw a wrench into our plans in 2020. And up until a couple of months ago, we were planning to revive the series for 2021. But the COVID numbers were and are still too high.

So we’re going to do what we did last year while upholding the original 1987 mission. You’ll be able to watch the concert special and donate in the comfort and safety of your home.

Last year, we raised more than 730,000 cans of food for those in need. This year, our goal is one million cans. Each dollar you donate buys three cans.

I guarantee we’ll do everything we can to hold live programs next year. But until then, please watch and please donate.

After all this time, it still sounds like a great idea!

– Neill McNeill

To donate to this year’s food drive, click on the banner at the top of the homepage. The fundraiser will culminate in a virtual telethon from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec. 15 followed by a 1-hour, commercial-free FOX8/Old Dominion Triad Holiday Concert Special.