Santa's magic overcomes Murphy's law in Cascade

December 03, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |
  • Santa Claus pats the heads of kids as he makes his arrival to the Fort Ritchie Community Center on Saturday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

CASCADE, Md. — They'd been planning for some of Santa's magic. What they got was Murphy's law.

Fort Ritchie Community Center, One Mountain Foundation and PenMar Development Corporation teamed up to sponsor a tree lighting at Fort Ritchie in Cascade. The army used to host such a celebration before the base closed in 1998.

Bill Carter, chairman of the board of directors for One Mountain, said the planning committee envisioned a dramatic scene in which children would sing carols around a tree. Clydesdales with jingle bells would amble the lakefront grounds, then Santa would make a grand entrance on a fire engine.

"We wanted to bring some of the old kind of nostalgia," Carter said.

However, only days before the celebration, the group was faced with ground that had not yet frozen over. Instead, it was inches deep with sopping mud. When workers came to light the tree in a 50-foot boom bucket, the truck got stuck in the muck.

Then, they received word that the owner of the Clydesdales had been in an accident and would be unable to participate.

"Murphy has been well at work for us," Carter said.

Still, he said, organizers trudged on, orchestrating a Plan B. Though not what they had first envisioned, the result was a crowd-pleasing first Community Tree Lighting and Fun with Santa.

"Santa's still here, that's the main thing," Carter said.

Students from Cascade Elementary School caroled inside the community center gym. Rosita South of Smithsburg and her grandson, Syris Valentine, 6, sang and bounced along to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

"I think it's great what they do for the kids here," South said.

Vera Sewell of Cascade smiled as her granddaughter Kiarra Wilson, 8, sang.

"I like how this gets the community together and gives the kids an opportunity to participate," Sewell said.

Melinda Mazenko of Smithsburg said she was happy to find a Christmas activity that all of her children — Madeline, 13, Connor, 10, and Garrett, 5 — could enjoy.

"This is very nice for families," she said. "I think it's great how they are involving the school and the community. I hope it grows every year."

Five-year-old Gracie McClain said she was excited to ask Santa for a Lalaloopsy doll and a toy boat.

A crowd of about 100 people cheered when Santa made his entrance. Wyatt Thacker, 2, was excited about the jolly elf's footwear.

"He has boots like me!" Wyatt shouted. His twin sister Zorah, clad in a homemade Christmas-tree dress, had a simple request.

"I want two candy canes," she said.

After pictures with Santa, the crowd headed outside to watch the tree lighting from the community center veranda. A burst of applause swelled as bright colors glowed from the towering tree. Carter estimated that the broad pine was more than 40 feet tall.

Bob Spence, executive director of the Fort Ritchie Community Center, said despite the obstacles in planning, he was pleased with the event.

"We just had to do a last-minute shift," Spence said. "But I think this has been very successful for our first time out."

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