Christmas tree lighting ceremony ignites the holiday spirit in downtown State College
The annual downtown tree lighting ceremony kicked off the holiday season as Penn State students, families, and friends gathered to see the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Allen Street Gates, and to spread holiday spirit for a good cause.
“At the end of the day it was a wonderful community event. We had a lot of people who helped make this a reality. The community came together to sing carols, drink hot cocoa, and eat cookies,” said Irene Miller, executive director of the Downtown State College Improvement District.
Free hot chocolate, hot cider, cookies, and candy were given out compliments of Irving’s, Webster’s Café, Insomnia Cookies, and the State College Lions Club.
Kids 12 and under who donated a toy or canned good got a chance to help Santa Claus light the Christmas tree. Donations were collected for Toys for Tots and the State College Area Food Bank.
Sounds of the season were provided from a variety of community groups before Santa arrived on a firetruck to light the tree.
The Dan and Galla Music Show were the hosts on stage, playing all of the classic Christmas carols, with Dan on the keyboard and Galla on the mic.
Two ballerinas from the Performing Arts School of Central Pennsylvania danced to songs from the Nutcracker, and the State College Area High School Saxophone Quartet performed “Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Carol of the Bells.”
As soon as the flashing lights of the firetruck came into sight, countless excited young children were raised onto their parents’ shoulders to see Santa Claus make his entrance. The young winner of the drawing and his sister joined Santa on stage to help light the tree.
Once the crowd counted down from ten, the giant pine topped with a big, shiny star was illuminated with hundreds of bright lights.
“I was very excited to see Santa Claus, and the tree was breathtaking,” said senior landscape contracting major David Penkrot. “This was a great event to get in the Christmas spirit and support a good cause, which is what the holidays are all about.”
This year’s tree was donated in memory of Grace Antes Strong by her brother Don Antes, Jr. and her husband Ed Strong. Grace Strong was a beloved community member who passed away last summer.
“Grace was a wonderful woman. She was the living embodiment of the holiday spirit 365 days a year. She was just wonderful,” said Miller.
Miller gave special thanks to the Penn State Office of the Physical Plant (OPP) for lighting up Allen Street, the State College Borough for putting the Christmas tree in place and decorating it with lights, the Volunteer Fire Department, and the Stepping Stones Community Church.