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Fest puts people in the spirit

November 25, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

With Thanksgiving feasts just days from making it to dining room tables, more than 1,000 people filled the seats of The Maryland Theatre Monday night to ring in the Christmas season.

The Encorps majorettes twirled batons to the "Home Alone" soundtrack and the Smithsburg High School Orchestra, its members wearing Santa Claus caps, played instruments at the City of Hagerstown's 15th Annual HollyFest.

A tree-lighting ceremony at Public Square scheduled to precede the indoor festival was postponed until today due to rainy weather. The ceremony is to begin today at 5:30 p.m., with the tree to be lighted at 6:30 p.m.

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Missy Hoover, 37, whose niece twirled with a group of black leotard-clad majorettes, said she hoped HollyFest would help put her in the holiday spirit. She said the weather and parking downtown put a little damper on the early part of her evening.

Jay Seipler, 43, who was born and raised in Hagerstown, attended HollyFest for the first time Monday. He brought members of the Association for Retarded Citizens of Frederick County (Md.) to share in his experience.

"It'll help to get a start on the holiday season. It's a little fun to do things that you normally don't do," he said.

Jodi Knotts, 41, of Boonsboro, said her daughter was set to perform with the Highland View Academy Chorus at the event.

"I think it's a great opportunity for her to perform in a public forum as far as a confidence builder," she said.

Knotts said attending HollyFest has been a tradition for the family since her children were little. She said her daughter is comfortable at the theater.

Green lights on black curtains framed the stage as the Smithsburg High School Orchestra's string instruments cast a red glow. Some orchestra members threw Santa Claus hats on the necks of their instruments.

Effie Tiches said she was out to support the orchestra, not only as a proud mom to a viola player, but as the president of the Smithsburg Orchestra Supporters. She said the organization is concerned that musical programs will get cut from public schools.

"We absolutely adore our music teacher, Mr. Evan Price, and it's because of him that our students continue to do well in orchestra," she said.

Martrice McCall, 13, a member of Girls Inc. of Washington County, was handing out programs to those entering the theater.

Girls Inc. was to sing at the tree-lighting ceremony before it was postponed. Martrice said she was happy that she would get to sing today.

She's been with Girls Inc. for the past eight years and said that each year HollyFest kicks off her holiday season.

"It's just getting me into the Christmas spirit," she said.

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