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Lights offer holiday cheer at local park

December 08, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - Byron Memorial Park was lit up, as the saying goes, like a Christmas tree Sunday evening.

And the only thing harder to count than the bustling people taking in all the decorations was the number of bulbs used on more than 50 designs spread throughout the park.

Though Williamsport officials canceled the holiday parade Sunday evening because of icy conditions on sidewalks throughout the town, the annual tree- and ornament-lighting tradition was as festive as ever.

"We come down every year," said Rod Reed, attending with his son Seth, 4. "He was born, so we started coming - it's a family tradition."

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Reed said the family probably would make "50 more trips" through the park to see the decorations before the 2003 holiday season comes to a close.

Dozens who gathered before 5 p.m. to get a close view of the Christmas tree at the entrance soon were joined by hundreds more. Adults shivered and clung to cups of coffee and hot chocolate, while children occupied themselves by sledding on nearby hills, making snowballs and asking their parents, "When is Santa coming?"

Children got their Santa Claus sighting at 5:35 p.m. as he arrived on the back of the Williamsport Volunteer Fire Department's truck No. 2. The man in red, armed with candy canes for the young, rosy-cheeked admirers, soon found himself surrounded like a pop-music star in a shopping mall.

John Poffenberger and his 7-year-old daughter Summer Shank said they come every year because she likes to see Santa and all the lights.

"They look pretty when they light up," Summer said.

And at 5:45 p.m., the snow-covered park was illuminated by the towering tree and more than 50 decorations spread from the park entrance nearly to the barn behind the community pool. Attendees described it as the biggest array of holiday decorations ever at the park.

Beyond the "Happy Holidays" greeting and the white bulb-lit tree were illuminated items including snowmen, castles, candy canes, drums and various holiday characters. Even the barn near the rear of the park was decorated in bright blue and white icicle designs.

"We do it right over here in Williamsport," said Lee Sterling, who brought his great-grandson, Jonathan Markley, to the event for the first time Sunday. "I always come out for this. They change it every year."

Among the lauded changes made by the town crew this year was the carnival-like carousel, complete with glowing horses just to the left of the park's main entrance. Among those enamored with the carousel was Robin McCauley.

"There's something here new every year. It's the best around," McCauley said.

Tony Burger said he and his wife, Carol Burger, would take in all the scenes from the park over the course of multiple trips.

"When the crowd dies down, we like to drive through every night," he said.

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