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Discarded trees see new life as decorations for Charlie Brown Christmas

November 30, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Stephanie Bard, director of Rehoboth Learning Center, decorates a tree at the Springfield Farm Barn in Williamsport. The tree will be part of this weekend's Charlie Brown Christmas.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — The Barn at Springfield Farm is just a stone's throw from downtown Williamsport, along a narrow lane that seems to stretch to the horizon.

It's easy to see the old structure from the road — its raised-seam roof pointing to the sky and its sturdy frame resting on a stone foundation.

Built in the 1700s, it stands on land once owned by Otho Holland Williams, the town's founder, and boasts two open brick granaries.

But for a few weeks in December, it sheds its historic agricultural past and becomes the unlikely setting for a Christmas wonderland.

Cascading strands of white lights sparkle against the wooden beams, wreaths and garland hang on doors and posts and dozens of decorated artificial trees turn the barn's interior into a festive forest.

But these aren't just any trees. They're rejects — discarded by their owners who've replaced them with newer and more attractive models.

Some have missing branches, a few are lopsided or misshapen. And they were all headed to the trash bin.

But thanks to the creative thinking of Williamsport Town Councilwoman Joan Knode, they've been beautifully transformed for an event appropriately called Charlie Brown Christmas.

This weekend will mark the third year for the celebration, which annually draws thousands of people.

The doors to the barn will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, and Sunday, Dec. 4; noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6; and 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, and Sunday, Dec. 11.

Knode said the concept for a holiday event came about in 2009, when she and her daughter-in-law, Tearza Knode, were cleaning up the barn following the first World War II Weekend held in Williamsport.

"Tearza said, 'Wouldn't the barn look great with Christmas decorations?,'" Knode remembered. "Of course, we didn't have a budget to decorate or buy trees. So I thought I would call WJEJ Phone Party and ask for people to donate their old artificial trees when they upgraded to pre-lit ones."

That first year, Knode said they received 35 trees of all shapes and sizes "and actually one that truly looked like the Charlie Brown tree. That's how the name of the event came about."

Knode said area groups and organizations were invited to adopt one of the trees and give it new life with lights and decorations.

When the doors opened to the public, it was a goose bump moment.

The combination of lights, greenery and holiday music — all in a barn — drew rave reviews.

"People loved it," Knode said.

In 2010, Knode said she asked for more donations and received about 30 additional trees.

"Some appeared in my driveway and at the door of the Town Museum at Springfield Barn," she said.

Knode said people have continued to donate their old trees and this year, about 70 trees will be featured.

In addition, Meritus Medical Center donated eight, large stuffed reindeer that Knode said will be flying in the rafters, courtesy of cable wire.

The new additions inspired this year's theme: "Reindeer in the Rafters."

Knode said the medical center also donated a train layout table, a large mantle and fireplace, a 12-foot tree, ornaments, lighted garland, wreaths and centerpieces.

"All these donations added to the many that we already had received from other people," she said. "We're using all of the donations in venues throughout the barn floor area."

Knode said about 68 groups and organizations are decorating trees this year, including garden clubs, scout troops, families, businesses and nonprofits.

"The Town employees and workers from (Maryland Correctional Training Center) prerelease program started moving the trees to the show area the first week in November," Knode said. "On Nov. 19 and 20, most groups came and decorated their trees."

Visitors to this year's Charlie Brown Christmas also will be treated to seasonal music, a visit from Santa, a singing and talking giant bear, a train room and cookies and hot chocolate, compliments of the Town of Williamsport and Leiters Fine Catering.

Knode said horse-drawn wagon rides from the barn through Byron Memorial Park, which will be decorated for the holidays, also will be offered.

While donations are appreciated, there is no fee for attending the event. However, a fee will be charged for a professional photo packet, as well as the wagon rides.

Although this is only the third year for the celebration, Knode said it is quickly becoming a holiday tradition for many people.

"Several families told me they plan their visits from out of town to come see relatives during the Charlie Brown Christmas," Knode said.

Last year, the event was attended by almost 7,000 people.

"We had one woman who came every night," Knode said. "People have already called wanting to know when it will be held this year."

Knode said the celebration will continue every Christmas "as long as their is interest and adults and children believe in the wonderful season."



If you go ...        

WHAT: Charlie Brown Christmas

WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 3 and Dec. 10, Sundays, Dec. 4 and Dec. 11; noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6.

WHERE: Springfield Barn Museum, 14 Springfield Lane, Williamsport.

COST: Free admission.

CONTACT: Call 301-223-7711 or 301-223-7229 or go to www.williamsportmd.org.

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