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Santa, tree brighten the Square

November 26, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Festive residents jammed onto a corner of Public Square Tuesday evening to celebrate the annual tree lighting with music, hot chocolate and, of course, an appearance by Santa for the kids.

Although the tree wasn't lighted until after 6:30 p.m., many bundled up and arrived at the site more than 90 minutes early.

The event, sponsored by the City of Hagerstown, M & T Bank, Antietam Cable and WQCM/Dane Broadcasting, drew about 300 people.

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Public Square was filled with the sound of holiday classics performed instrumentally by the North Hagerstown High School Brass Ensemble and vocally by dozens of youngsters from Girls Inc. The event drew young and old, newcomers and traditional attendees.

"It's good to get out of the house every year to see it," said Hagerstown resident Roy Funk, who was attending for the third straight year. "It's pretty neat."

Just before 6:30 p.m. came the moment many toddlers anxiously awaited. Santa Claus arrived in a vintage red fire truck.

"The kids really wanted to see Santa Claus," said Amberlee Kane of Hagerstown, attending with her children Jasmine, 5, Jarred, 4, and Trey, 10 months.

"Santa, Santa, Santa," Jarred yelled as the man in red made his way to the tree.

Minutes later, Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner and 10-year-old Sarah Benkert flipped the switch to illuminate the white bulbs and red, white and blue stars on the tree.

Sarah, a fifth-grade student at Eastern Elementary School, was selected because of a song she wrote, titled "Just Say No," for Red Ribbon Week in November, Breichner said. Sarah's father, David Benkert, said it is something his daughter will remember every holiday season.

"I think that it's great to be able to involve the kids," Benkert said. "For her to be able to do that, I'm tickled. It brings it a little close to home."

Sarah also performed the song Monday at HollyFest, which usually is held in conjunction with the tree-lighting event. City officials said they moved the lighting back one day because of Monday's heavy rain.

The event drew close to 300 people despite the change in date and time, according to city Events Coordinator Susie Salvagni.

"That's a good crowd without it being on the night of HollyFest," Salvagni said.

Beverly Pendarvis of Hagerstown said the red, white and blue stars on the tree were a nice patriotic touch this year. Pendarvis said the lighting ceremony made her think about how much she hopes her children and grandchildren have a happy, good-spirited holiday season.

"I just wanted to see it. The tree was really nice this year," Pendarvis said. "I wish my grandbaby was here to see it."

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