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City of Martinsburg getting decked out for the holidays

November 26, 2004|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Returning to yesteryear, many of the large storefronts in downtown Martinsburg have been decorated for the holidays, with some displays that could be considered must-sees.

As part of the town's Hometown Christmas celebration - which also features a tree-lighting ceremony, visit from Santa, pet parade and other activities on Friday, Dec. 3 - downtown businesses were invited to decorate their windows.

An elaborate model train display in the windows of Edward Jones Investments has as its theme old-town New York City. The display includes replicas of the Empire State Building, Christmas carolers, the Statue of Liberty and, to the chagrin of Orioles fans, Yankee Stadium.

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At Flowers Unlimited, two windows feature colorful cartoon-like characters, including a dog that appears to have claimed the construction-paper loop garland as its new toy.

Other displays feature mechanical figures, Christmas lights and trees, dolls and holiday-themed artwork.

Lighted wreathes hang from the streets' Victorian-style lampposts, while the centerpiece of the Christmas celebration stands in front of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library.

A 24-foot tree already has been decorated with large ornaments, bows and strings of lights. At around 7 p.m., Martinsburg Mayor George Karos will officially light the tree.

Barring a snowstorm, that is.

Last year, most of the planned Christmas activities had to be canceled after a storm blanketed the area with several inches of snow.

"A little bit of rain, misty rain, or a little bit of snow, it's still going to go on," said Laura Gassler, chair of Main Street Martinsburg's Promotions Committee. Main Street Martinsburg is organizing the event.

Activities, including many making their debut, are planned from 6 to 9 p.m.

A pet parade - a new event this year - is open to anyone with a leashed, well-behaved pet dressed in "holiday finery." All participants are to meet at the West Burke Street parking lot at 6:30 p.m. Stuffed animals are welcome, too.

At 7 p.m., Santa will arrive in a mule-drawn carriage. All of the children who visit with Santa will receive a treat-filled bag.

Children also can decorate cookies, have their faces painted, ride in a miniature train and use chalk to decorate the streets in the town square, at the intersection of King and Queen streets.

The intersection will be closed to traffic.

Other new activities include Christmas storytelling by Viola Johnson around a yule log.

Llamas, which children can see up close, will return. Several choirs also are slated to perform and the Boy Scouts with Troop 13 again will have cards for veterans that people can fill out.

Decorated as it would have been in the late 1800s, the Belle Boyd House on Race Street will be open until 9 p.m. Tours will be given.

At the town square, vendors will sell barbecue sandwiches, popcorn, cotton candy, hot dogs, gourmet coffee and hot drinks, while downtown restaurants will remain open after the tree-lighting ceremony. Several stores also plan to remain open later than usual.

This year's Christmas ornament, which features the Westphal fire station, will be sold as well.

This marks the third year Gassler has overseen the Christmas celebration. Behind-the-scenes work included making phone calls; getting vendors involved; looking at and picking out the town's tree, out of a dozen that people had submitted for consideration; and even replacing the anchors used to tie down the tree. They had deteriorated, Gassler said.

Gassler estimated that she spends about 10 hours a week doing work for the Promotions Committee, and receives help from another dozen volunteers.

She hopes families will attend.

"The main goal is for family fun. We're doing a lot of events that are geared toward kids," Gassler said.

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