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Williamsport's old-fashioned Christmas

December 20, 2008|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI

During the 1940s and '50s, a Christmas tree graced Williamsport's town square. On Christmas Day, Santa Claus arrived on the corner, and families lined the streets with children awaiting goodie bags filled with oranges and peppermint sticks.

Williamsport Town Councilman Anthony T. Drury said historical town photographs document the tradition.

"We wanted to bring that atmosphere back," Drury said.

On Saturday night, a group of merchants collaborated with the town council and representatives from the C&O Canal National Historical Park to do just that at Old Fashioned Williamsport Christmas.

Outside, a 16-foot tree lighted up Conococheague Street. Santa sat at the foot of the tree welcoming little ones, and lively carolers sang. Horses trotted along the street drawing carriages full of merrymakers behind them. The ring of a bell hanging above merchants' heavy wooden doors announced the entrance of patrons into shops. Inside, people chatted over hot cocoa. If they did not know each other on a first-name basis at the beginning of the conversation, they did by the end.

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Bruce Logan, owner of Highway Song Leather, helped organize the festivities. After hosting a Christmas event inside his shop last year to benefit Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), Logan said he wanted to expand his efforts this year. Proceeds from Saturday's carriage rides will be donated to BACA.

"This is just something I like to do," Logan said. "It's great just to do something for the kids."

Judy Hobart of Falling Waters, W.Va., went to the event with her mother, her children and her grandchildren. The children each took ornaments to hang on the town Christmas tree, which organizers planned to move into Byron Memorial Park following the event.

Susan Walker, 41, of Hagerstown, said she and her children were pleased to stumble upon the event.

"We saw the lights on the tree as we were passing by, and we came to see what was going on," Walker said. "The kids just sat with Santa, and now we are going for a horse-and-buggy ride. They are all excited."

Chad and Shannon Lemen of Falling Waters, W.Va., own American Heritage Antiques. Chad Lemen said he enjoyed the festivities.

"This is great. I love it. I think it brings a lot of charm to this little town. It helps you get that hometown feeling you get during Christmas," he said. "People have come in because of this event, and it helps us get to know everyone a little better."

At Williamsport's Town Hall, workers with the C&O Canal National Historical Park offered historical lantern tours of the town, as well as crafts for children. Children made Christmas tree ornaments depicting mules and canal boats to tie in to the history of the town, as well as period decorations of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including doily and fan ornaments.

"This was a great chance to share the history of the town with folks who came out tonight," park ranger Curt Gaul said.

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