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Holiday shoppers congest roads

December 24, 2006|by CANDICE BOSELY

Even holiday travelers who avoided anything remotely resembling a retail establishment on Saturday were not immune from headaches on the roads.

"Roads are heavy and congested," including on interstates and especially near shopping centers, Maryland State Police Sgt. Jeff Kissner said. "Everybody's trying to get to the Valley Mall or Prime Outlets."

He said traffic often was at a stop-and-go pace and that several minor fender-benders had occurred.

Lt. Tim Baker of the Washington County Sheriff's Department said deputies with his department also had responded to several accidents, but said none involved serious injuries. At least one fender-bender happened at Valley Mall, he said Saturday afternoon.

Problems at the mall hadn't extended to criminal offenses - yet.

"We haven't had any shoplifting," Baker said. "That's a good sign."

While rain is forecast for Christmas, the weather was clear and sunny Saturday, and is expected to remain so today, according to the National Weather Service.

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Some opted to travel Saturday, but not to a relative's house or a store. They were trying to spread holiday cheer.

Fourteen people with Clopper-Michael American Legion Post 10 in Boonsboro spent the morning delivering 16 food baskets to families in need in Washington County.

Each basket contained a ham, turkey, bacon, two pies, oranges, potatoes and vegetables, said Kermit Beard, senior vice commander at the post.

"We always get very good responses," Beard said. "They're very appreciative of it and glad they got something."

At Cascade Elementary School, hundreds of people waited outside the school for Santa Claus, who arrived in grandiose style - in a horse-drawn sleigh. To adjust to the temperate weather, wheels replaced sleigh runners.

Once he arrived, Santa Claus distributed toys and other items to more than 200 Cascade Elementary School students and family members, said Jeff Coyle, who coordinates the event for the Sons of the American Legion Post 239 in Cascade.

Other organizations also assisted in the banquet, which was a PTA event.

Children wrote letters to Santa in October, with many asking for practical items such as coats, hats or school supplies in addition to toys. Children received at least two of the items on their lists, and several families received full meals, Coyle said.

"If you could see the expressions on the kids' faces, and it's that time of year, it makes it all worthwhile," he said.

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