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Tree Lighting and Fun with Santa 'for kids of all ages'

Event at Fort Ritchie Community Center brings tradition back to Cascade

December 01, 2012|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • The Cascade Elementary School chorus performs holiday songs Saturday at Fort Ritchie Community Center's Tree Lighting and Fun with Santa.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

CASCADE — Whack.

A toddler struck a Christmas tree with a bat. A crowd cheered him on as it spun in circles.

The tree was stuffed with candy, a piñata to amuse the 50 or so children who celebrated the Christmas season Saturday at Fort Ritchie Community Center’s Tree Lighting and Fun with Santa.

At the opposite end of the gymnasium were older children with slightly more refined motor skills hammering away at a snowman piñata. A young girl executed the final blow as an excited throng made a mad dash for its contents.

PenMar Development Corp. and One Mountain Foundation sponsored the day of fun along with the community center. Bill Carter, chairman of One Mountain’s board of directors, said the event was for “the kids up here on the mountaintop,” in reference to communities including Blue Ridge Summit and Fountaindale, Pa., and Pen Mar, Cascade and Sabillasville, Md. But he said people of all ages would enjoy it.

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“It’s for kids of all ages,” Carter said, a Santa hat atop his head. “We’ve encouraged, and I’ve seen here, that you don’t need to have children to enjoy this event. You can enjoy just seeing it and being a part of the community.”

Last year was the event’s inaugural year. Carter said the U.S. Army used to host a community tree lighting before the Fort Ritchie military installation closed in 1998.

“We wanted to bring the tradition back to Cascade of having a tree lighting and bringing together the various people who live up here,” he said. “People are happy to come out again.”

Students from Cascade Elementary School sang in the gymnasium. Fourth-grader Erin Watkins, who lives on the former base, got warmed up with “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman.” By “Here Comes Santa Claus,” she had broken into dance with one hand in the air, the other holding her nose and a shimmy known as “the swim.”

“I like that you can come here and play games and stuff,” Erin said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”

Erin’s grandmother, Kathy Laramie, said she was happy to have a celebration to attend.

“I love having stuff like this here,” she said. “The more, the better.”

Daniel and Rebecca Cool of Smithsburg took their four children to the event.

“It’s nice because it’s a chance for the kids to come out and be a part of the community we live in,” Rebecca Cool said. “It’s a group builder or bonder.”

Brooke Hagermayer, 5, dressed in a red plaid and black velvet dress, sat among a circle of children during game time. Carols played and then stopped abruptly as players were eliminated not by being caught holding a “hot potato,” but a plush reindeer.

Brooke’s mother, Jennipher Hagermayer of Waynesboro, Pa., who also had taken her children, Taylor, 8, and Brooke, 1, said she had never been to the community center. She was pleased with both the facility and the event.

Makayla Burrier, 6, of Frederick, Md., was gliding to the music across the gym floor as if she were on ice when Santa Claus entered through a side door ringing jingle bells. Makayla stopped in her tracks to line up for a visit with the legendary elf.

Her mother, Kaitlyn Burrier, 27, of Frederick, Md., said her children were especially eager to see the tree lighting, which was scheduled for 5 p.m. Attendees planned to head outside to a more than 40-foot-tall pine in front of Lake Royer.

Last year, Carter said, the tree lighted with a wave of Santa’s hand. This year, the jolly elf was expected to outdo himself.

“I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear the finger of his glove will light up like a glow stick,” he said. “They say Santa has magic. And he does.”

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