Tree Lighting Kicks off Christmas Season in Prince George County
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Nov 30, 2012, 14:19
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson A crowd of hundreds turned up for the annual Christmas tree lighting, which marks the start of the season for many.
Lights twinkled and sparkled both high and low at the event Prince George County Board of Supervisors Chairman Henry Parker described as the “highlight” of the year.
“Of course the recreation department does many, many things and activities for the benefit of everyone in our county throughout the year, but this is always the highlight, to be here for the lighting of the Christmas tree,” he said to the crowd assembled in front of the Prince George Regional Heritage Center.
He said that the annual tree lighting event, which has come to symbolize the start of the holiday season for many county residents, draws a larger number of attendees each year.
As Parker urged the audience to keep military personnel in their minds this holiday season, he welcomed to the podium Brigadier General Stephen Farmen, U.S. Army Chief of Transportation and Commandant of the Transportation School, who was the keynote speaker for this year’s lighting.
“Prince George and Fort Lee have always has a special bond,” he said.
As he addressed an audience gathered on the yard of the old court house building, surrounded by monuments to the memory of county residents killed in wars, he thanked current service members, veterans, Department of Defense employees and supporters of the military alike.
“We like to say the strength of our Army is our soldiers and the strength of our soldiers in their family. Part of that strength comes from the bonds of community forged in towns and counties across America, just like here in Prince George,” he said. “These bonds are most pronounced during the Christmas and holiday season.”
Farmen noted that since the earliest days of the nation, when George Washington led the United States Army across the Delaware River to surprise their opponents on Christmas day at the Battle of Trenton, to the Battle of the Bulge, which began shortly before Christmas in 1944 and stretched into the new year, to Afghanistan today, the men and women of the United States military have balanced holiday spirit with the difficulties of serving in dangerous situations away from family and home.
He urged the audience to contact the Fort Lee USO about the opportunity to invite service members unable to spend the holidays at home with their families to spend Christmas day with them.
“There were about 80 soldiers who were taken care of by our community last Christmas,” Farmen said.
After performances from Gotta Dance, the Kountry Kickers line dancing group, a sing along with the Prince George Girl, Cub and Boy Scouts and a solo vocal performance by Jessica Beaudet, the crowd moved around the side of the building to see the big moment.
“One, two, three, light the tree,” the audience called.
Santa Claus obliged.
Under the newly lit boughs of the evergreen tree, he met with children who didn’t have a chance to share their Christmas wishes with him before the program started and posed for pictures with county residents of all ages.
“We both got our picture with Santa,” said Chris Cahoon, a county police officer who was attending the event with his young daughter.
“It was a good way to kick off the holiday season,” he said.
The annual lighting may have earned a new devotee in Rhonda Comfort-Ellington, who was attending for the first time.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Dance and vocal perfomances got excited children tapping their toes as they waited for the big moment.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said, as her daughter, Taylor Ellington, had her picture taken with Santa. “It gets me in the Christmas spirit.”