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I am proud to say that I am a second-generation DeLand native. My mother, Teresa Smith Casazza, was also born and raised in DeLand, and married my father, Richard Casazza, in 1956. They had four children — Ricky Casazza, Teresa Casazza Brown, myself and Linda Casazza New — in DeLand, and raised us with true small-town roots.

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CHRISTMAS PARADES OF YESTERYEAR — A Christmas Parade float for Frierson’s Appliance Store rolls down Woodland Boulevard. 2019 will mark the parade’s 71st year. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and the theme is “A Winter Wonderland Down Main Street.” DeLand’s three Rotary clubs — The Rotary Club of DeLand, the DeLand Breakfast Rotary Club, and the Rotary Club of Downtown DeLand — partner to present the parade, which was formerly presented by the DeLand Jaycees for 67 years.” width=”696″ height=”514″ />

CHRISTMAS PARADES OF YESTERYEAR — A Christmas Parade float for Frierson’s Appliance Store rolls down Woodland Boulevard. 2019 will mark the parade’s 71st year. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and the theme is “A Winter Wonderland Down Main Street.” DeLand’s three Rotary clubs — The Rotary Club of DeLand, the DeLand Breakfast Rotary Club, and the Rotary Club of Downtown DeLand — partner to present the parade, which was formerly presented by the DeLand Jaycees for 67 years.

Being raised in a small town has so many advantages, and truly enables us to not only establish defined roots, but to have cherished lifelong friendships.

I have such fond memories of growing up in this beautiful, quaint town, that it often brings me back to feeling like an innocent child.

I raised my kids in DeLand, and now am watching as my grandkids grow in this amazing town. My grandchildren are now establishing friendships with my schoolmates’ grandkids. It’s such an amazing thing, that you can only appreciate in a small town like ours.

One of my favorite memories of growing up in DeLand is watching the Christmas Parade with my parents, and being a participant as a majorette. I remember when I was 5, I got to sit on Santa’s float.

It is such a special memory. I haven’t missed a Christmas Parade since I was a child, and I now enjoy them with my grandkids!

Holidays were always special to my family. We had holiday dinners with my Italian grandparents, my Uncle Andy and Aunt Annette, and my two cousins, Andy and Alan. I loved those dinners, eating amazing homemade Italian food and the traditional holiday dishes and spending time with everyone.

It isn’t just memories of special events or holidays that I cherish, but the amazing Downtown, the churches and the comradeship.

I remember spending Saturdays shopping and having lunch in Downtown DeLand.

My family attended church at St. Peter, and it was so fun afterward to go with my family to Hunter’s Restaurant. I would sit at the counter and drink malt shakes (a reward for all of us behaving in church). I looked forward to my homemade birthday cakes, always baked by Miss June.

I took ballet and dance lessons at Miss Chalimi’s dance school, and my mom said I would do cartwheels down the sidewalks of the town while they walked.

We can’t forget that our amazing town is the home of the St. Johns River. My mom would pack a picnic on Sundays, and we would take our cold fried chicken, potato salad, and tea down to the river and spend the afternoon outside.

Even with all of that time spent on the river, I just caught my first fish last month with my grandson on Lake Winnemissett!

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CHRISTMAS PARADES OF TODAY — Several distinguished Rotarians wave to the crowd of thousands at the 2016 DeLand Christmas Parade. 2019 will mark the parade’s 71st year. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and the theme is “A Winter Wonderland Down Main Street.” DeLand’s three Rotary clubs — The Rotary Club of DeLand, the DeLand Breakfast Rotary Club, and the Rotary Club of Downtown DeLand — partner to present the parade, which was formerly presented by the DeLand Jaycees for 67 years.” width=”696″ height=”522″ />

CHRISTMAS PARADES OF TODAY — Several distinguished Rotarians wave to the crowd of thousands at the 2016 DeLand Christmas Parade. 2019 will mark the parade’s 71st year. The parade begins at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and the theme is “A Winter Wonderland Down Main Street.” DeLand’s three Rotary clubs — The Rotary Club of DeLand, the DeLand Breakfast Rotary Club, and the Rotary Club of Downtown DeLand — partner to present the parade, which was formerly presented by the DeLand Jaycees for 67 years.

I am so grateful for the childhood friends that I made, many of whom are still friends as adults. When I grew up, we only had one senior high school for West Volusia, which made it great for meeting everyone in the area.

It was at DeLand High School that I met the love of my life. We married when I was only 18.

We are still happily together and have four amazing children — Mark Rood, married to Melissa; Michael Rood, married to Brandy; Chad Rood; and Courtney Rood — along with two precious grandchildren, Michael and McKenzie.

Growing up in this small town and watching it build and grow inspired me to become a Realtor. The insight and love I have for our community is a unique asset, and something I can share with my clients.

Sometimes I may take it for granted, but I know I am so fortunate to have grown up in DeLand.

— Debbie Rood is a Realtor and DeLand native.

If you have memories you’d like to share for our West Volusia history series, please email info@beacononlinenews.com, along with a high-resolution headshot of yourself and any historical photos that may go with your story.

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