Hopewell Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting Light Up The Night
By CHAI GALLAHUN
Dec 6, 2017, 14:14
Almost half of the fun of Hopewell’s annual Christmas Parade and Light Up the Night events is found in the time waiting for them to begin.
Excited anticipation is evident in the gleaming faces of the children who sing and play in the warm, autumn sunlight. Technically, winter does not officially begin until Dec. 21, the day of the winter solstice, which also happens to be the shortest period of daylight for the year. Still, the weather conditions for this year’s parade were more favorable than last years, allowing for attendees to more freely partake of the concessions offering various warm and tasty sundries and cold or hot beverages with which to wash them down.
Like tailgating parties popular in NFL stadium parking lots, waiting for the parade was a social gathering for many families and friends.
“My brother is out of town,” said Tom Jollier of Prince George, “so my wife and kids packed into our big truck with his wife and kids. Got a cooler in the back with our food and some drinks.” Jollier gestures to the open tailgate upon which reside animated children laughing and eating. “Blankets keep ‘em warm. We’re sending the photos to my brother.”
A couple strolling by stopped to share their thoughts about the parade. Enter Glenn Tanner and his fiance’ Lisa Matthews.
Tanner, a 1987 graduate of Hopewell High School remembers a time when the downtown area flourished with events like this parade. “I just think it’s great that they’re actually getting things like this going again,” he said. “Plus, the tree lighting is going to be great, I’m sure, and the community’s starting to come back together. Downtown’s getting showcased again. We’re all going to be happy when Santa Claus comes through I’m sure!”
Matthews, a 1990 graduate of HHS, added, “I was born and raised here. It’s just wonderful to see everybody coming out to something positive and celebrating Christmas and all the festivities and the lighting of the Christmas tree. It’s like tradition here, and that’s what I grew up on. Tradition.”
Terry Little, was waiting at the parade for his wife and grandson to finally arrive. But, that would be a while, for his grandson was marching in the parade with Hopewell Martial Arts World. Little and his family drove out to Hopewell from their home in Enon.
“I’m waiting for the martial arts team to come through, my grandson is marching with them. I dropped them off at Cavalier Square [where the parade began] and saw a lot of the floats. It should be quite nice.” This is only the second time Little has attended the Hopewell Christmas parade. So, how long had it been since Little last attended? “Seventeen years ago,” said Little, a seeming twinkle in his eye.
Carolynne Fisher said that she has attended Hopewell’s parade three times. “I’m looking forward to seeing the Hopewell High School Band,” she said. One of her grandchildren had been in the band last year, she stated, but she still enjoys seeing the band march in the parade. “I’m from Ohio, staying here right now with my daughter who’s in the military. She just retired as a Sergeant Major in the culinary field.”
When asked about what’s special about the Christmas parade, Fisher said, “Christmas brings everybody back into religion. I look forward to that because that’s when everybody gets together. Otherwise, we’re all at each other’s throat all the time.”
With all of the waiting aside, the color guard, bands, groups, vehicles and floats made their way from the start at Cavalier Square, across the railroad tracks heading north, around the WWI War Memorial roundabout and past the Anchor Room.
Shortly after, the grand procession turned east on City Point and proceeded past the original Hopewell High School now converted into expansive studio apartments. After passing Vergara’s Cleaners and the Community Center, the parade turned north once again, heading into their final turn at the Courthouse and police station.
Crowds cheered and smiled as marching bands passed, bringing the signature sounds of high school and college football fields: sharp trumpets, booming percussion and resounding bass. Added to the powerful sonic presentation were precision marching and enthusiastic dancing.
Children cheered as the Grinch (the same one that stole Christmas that time) rounded the corner. Later, as other groups and motorcycles passed, they grew silent and began to murmur. “Santa’s coming,” said Emily Marian. “Is that him?” asked her brother, Lance Ciam. As if in answer, there was a loud cheer for Santa (louder than for the Grinch).
Santa rounded the corner on his float and candy canes seemed to rain from the sky.
The parade ended and left people with memories to cherish. But, the excitement was not over, for the tree lighting would happen quite soon.
After brief words by city officials including Mayor Jackie Shornak and Santa Claus himself, a children’s choir sang holiday songs while snow began to fall. Although the snow was generated from the rooftop of City Hall, it did create an enchanting, Christmas-like ambiance across the immediate crowd.
After a quick countdown, Hopewell’s Light Up The Night event culminated with the entire area lighting up in the brilliant radiance of the Christmas Tree.
The crowd cheered and continued the celebration, some heading over to First Baptist Church’s annual “Walk Through Bethlehem” event while others lingered to enjoy concession treats and shopping with vendors located nearby.
Hopewell’s annual Christmas parade certainly livened up the downtown area to the delight of those in attendance.