Crowd braves nature's elements for tree-lighting ceremony

November 24, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- The weather outside was frightful, but that didn't stop more than 150 people from gathering Monday in Hagerstown's Public Square for a rainy but festive tree-lighting ceremony.

Participants huddled in the doorways of shops and under umbrellas while performers sang, danced and played music under a tent, then applauded as thousands of spots of white light appeared on the city's 25-foot blue spruce.

"It was worth it," said Angela Borum, 33, of Hagerstown, who brought her children Donny, 7, and Olivia, 3, to see the lights. The family has watched the tree go up step by step while driving through the square, Borum said.

This year's tree was donated by Jeanie Gossard of Hagerstown in memory of her husband, Bill, who died in February. It came from her front yard, where its branches reached within inches of her house.


"The tree was getting so big and he always wanted it removed," Gossard said, explaining her decision to dedicate the tree to her late husband.

Hagerstown resident Mary Rager said she was impressed by the tree.

"It's a big one," she said. "Took a lot of years to get that high."

Many city departments contributed to the decorations and festivities, city community affairs director Karen Giffin said. The parks department cut the tree, the light department lit it, public works decorated the square and the police secured the lighting ceremony, Giffin said.

The red and green lights on the city's clock tower, a new addition this year, were the brainchild of public works director Eric Deike, Giffin said.

M&T Bank, which sponsored the ceremony, handed out free hot chocolate and cookies.

"It's the kickoff to the holidays, and it's fun to be out in the community and help everyone get into the holiday spirit," M&T Bank regional manager Brad Pingrey said.

The crowd was smaller than last year's, Pingrey said, but he was impressed that so many people came out despite the rain.

At the face-painting station, the elves Jingle and Jangle said the most requested designs were snowmen and Christmas trees, but there was no guarantee that the paint would hold up in the rain.

Performers at the event included Abigail and Lance Nigh, the North Hagerstown High School Brass Ensemble, saxophone players from South Hagerstown High School, the South High Steppers and carolers from Girls Inc.

Master of ceremonies Lou Scally invited several special guests to help light the tree, including Santa, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, and Gridiron Classic standouts Demetrius Myers of North Hagerstown High School and Hunter Phillips of South Hagerstown High School.

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