Christmas in the Park Friday

By on December 7, 2011

By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Lititz Springs Park was aglow with carolers and luminaries last Friday. A weekend of events started with Christmas in the Park and the community tree lighting. The occasion provided a mural of community tradition.

For years, huge stars adorned with red and white lights have crowned the street lights in the borough, setting a vintage atmosphere. But on Friday night those driving through town would have noticed several hundred people, all holding candles, gathered around Lititz Springs Park. They would have noticed the white luminaries atop the stone wall which surrounds the spring, adding a warm glow to the scene. And they would have heard the festive sounds of brass musical instruments accompanying a Christmas choir.

Newly-elected borough council member Scott Hain also serves on the Lititz Springs Park Board. He was this year’s emcee for Christmas in the Park.

"This has been an awesome event," he said. "It seems that it gets bigger each year. And the weather could not have been more perfect."

Pastor Kyle Buckwalter from Crossroads Community Fellowship offered the Christmas prayer, following a prelude by the Lititz Moravian Trombone Choir. The Warwick High School production companies and concert choir, under the direction of Debora Kline-Smith, spread the cheer through their vocal talents, leading the community on a variety of traditional carols.

Lititz Mayor Ron Oettel and special guest Wanda McKonley were introduced to oversee the main event — the tree lighting. A 12-foot Douglas Fir was recently planted in the park to serve as the community’s permanent Christmas tree. The tree was planted by the George K. Biemsderfer and Son Landscaping Nursery and was donated by George K. and Joyce G. Biemsderfer. Lit with a warm glow of multi-colored LED lights, it will add to the community’s enjoyment of Christmas as years go by.

The crowd then joined the high school vocalists for a round of seasonal favorites.

A visual centerpiece of the evening was the illumination of the park. Each attendee was givein a candle upon arriving, and by the end of the event the park was literally twinkling with candles and luminaries. The luminaries were donated by Stauffers of Kissel Hill.

And there was no trouble hearing the event since Clair Global provided the sound system for the event.

The park, an icon of the community, depends on volunteers, making McKonly a fitting representative for the ceremony. The first grade teacher at Lititz Elementary has been a dedicated park volunteer for nearly a decade, working alongside her husband, park superintendent Jerry McKonly. She puts in about 300 hours each year, cleaning restrooms, planting flowers and cutting grass, collecting trash, shoveling snow from the steps, restoring order after storms and helping other volunteers prepare for the Fourth of July.

"Needless to say, she is a valuable member of the team that maintains our park," Hain said. "Her husband Jerry and the Lititz Springs Park are extremely fortunate to have this volunteer work to ensure that our park is well-cared-for and kept a place that Lititz can be proud of."

Toward the end of the evening’s festivities, flashing lights at the back of the park were noticed by Hain, who alerted the crowd of a reliable sighting of none other than Santa and Mrs. Claus. Sure enough, moments later the First Family of Christmas came pulling up to the spring on the back of a carriage drawn by two able steeds.

Santa, in his trademark red suit, was in fine form and exuberant as he helped his bride who was dressed in a lovely holly-green velvet dress from the carriage before making their way to address the crowd.

Claus was pleased to say that nearly everyone in the Lititz area was on the "nice" list this year.

During an interview following the event he was asked about his slimmer appearance. He assured this correspondent that he was in fine health and "fit as a fiddle."

Indeed! For quickly he was able to steer the conversation to a matter near and dear to his heart — cookies.

"Rest assured, I will be a right jolly old elf by the end of Christmas eve if everyone will just put out a few cookies for me (and perhaps a few carrots for my reindeer)," chuckled Claus as Mrs. Claus lovingly patted his belly.

Regardless of his age, Santa remains very sharp, intellectually, as was clear when he was asked about his favorite variety of cookie. With lightning speed and almost as if he were anticipating the question, he fired off his response.

"I’m a chocolate chip cookie man, myself," laughed Claus with a merry "ho,ho, ho."

Both Clauses commented on the remarkable size of the crowd at Friday night’s event and how pleased they were to have made the special trip south. And while many of the locals may have thought the temperatures were in the cool 40-degree range, the Clauses thought it was like Florida compared to the sub-zero temperatures of their beloved North Pole.

Following the ceremony, they made several passes through town in their open carriage before collecting Christmas lists from the VIP quarters of the park caboose.

The community was also reminded that this is a season for giving. Non-perishable edibles were collected as a food drive conducted for the Warwick/Lititz Community Chest. Local Boy Scouts were also collecting for Toys for Tots. Fresh coffee and hot chocolate were available for sale in front of the welcome center (train station), with proceeds benefiting the Warwick School District athletic department.

The picture perfect evening set the tone for a festive holiday weekend in downtown Lititz, as Have Yourself a Merry Lititz Christmas was to follow the next day. More IN THE PARK, page A16