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Santa arrives between storms
There is one time each year when fire sirens are a welcome sound. That would be the first Saturday of December, when Lititz Fire Co. No. 1 announces the arrival of Santa Claus.
The weekend weather proved challenging, but Santa and Mrs. Claus picked the right day to parade through town. Bookended by a relentless Friday night rain that canceled the community tree lighting ceremony and a Sunday snow storm that made football fans wish they had tickets to Lincoln Financial Field, “Have Yourself a Merry Lititz Christmas” found near-perfect seasonal conditions.
The downtown was bustling with activity – Kids followed a trail of balloons for a treat-laden scavenger hunt, Boy Scouts held a marshmallow roast at the Sutter and made funnel cakes on East Main Street, there were horse drawn carriage rides, and Lititz El was full of music and games. Shop windows were decorated for the holiday and the Moravian Trombone Choir serenaded everyone with carols as they strolled the sidewalks.
It was a living Christmas card. And the highlight, of course, was the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus on top of Lititz’s stately white fire engine. They made their appearance at 10 a.m., to the delight of screaming children.
“Santa! Santa! Santa!” yelled a group of scavenger hunters as they chased the fire truck in front of Lititz Springs Park.
Mrs. Claus, whose first name is Sandra but she goes by Sandy, is used to her husband’s star status.
“He should (get all the attention),” she said. “Everyone loves Santa; that’s the way it’s meant to be.”
The patio at the General Sutter Inn was a hot spot, literally, as Boy Scout Troop 142 set up camp for an ooey-gooey marshmallow roast.
“We’ve started our fires, we’re going to be roasting some marshmallows, we’re going to be serving some hot chocolate, and basically doing a good deed for the community,” said Bill Armstrong, one of the troop leaders. “That’s what Scouts are about.”
Among the 18 uniformed Scouts who were volunteering, Nick Taylor, referred to as an “awesome kid” by a random pedestrian as she rounded the curve from Main to Broad, was in charge of making sure there were enough marshmallows for everyone.
We asked Nick, a bright young man, “What is the secret to effective marshmallow distribution during a big event like this?”
“Well, it takes a lot of happiness,” he said. “And it takes a lot of skill.”
Despite the December chill, Nick was coatless during his shift at the entrance to the Sutter patio. He assured us that his mother was on her way with a fleece.
At the time of our encounter, Nick revealed he had given out approximately 56 marshmallows. Remarkably, he had not seized the opportunity to sneak one or two for himself. But not all Scouts show such restraint.
A nearby Troop 142 member, who we’ll call Daniel, admitted to indulging in one marshmallow, which is reasonable considering these kids are volunteering on a cold day. But the king of these pillowy confections was a boy named Tony, who was mysteriously absent during this interview.
“He ate 10!” Daniel shouted during his sidewalk testimony.
Apparently, Tony was working on his Sweet Tooth Merit Badge that day.
Across the street, the Young Men’s Business League was one of the stops on the green route of Saturday’s scavenger hunt. The “Youngsters” spent the day handing out gourmet chocolate covered pretzels, courtesy of League member Jack Shounder and Dosie Dough Bakery, to every tot toting an emerald bag.
What is this “League,” you ask?
The YMBL is a relatively quite civic organization looking to revitalize its community presence in the coming year, which happens to coincide with its 100th anniversary. So, expect to hear more from these guys.
“We’re right on The Square, so this is a great opportunity for us,” said Phil McCloud, League president and scavenger hunt volunteer. “Hopefully today we can showcase our place, and people can have a good time with the Christmas spirit.”
The first visitors to The League’s pretzel stand were the Glenns, a group of cousins from Lititz and Pittsburgh. Ezra, Eviana, Annalaye and Alleha were tough interviews at first, but with promises of chocolate dangling over their heads we did manage to find out what tops their Christmas gift lists this year:
A stuffed minion and Agnes from the “Despicable Me” movie, Furby Boom, an RC helicopter and a dirt bike.
Knowing that many people dress as Santa during the Christmas season, we asked Det. John Schofield of the Lititz Police Department, who was patrolling the streets with fellow officers Kerry Nye and Jevon Miller, if he knew the identity of the one riding around town with Mrs. Claus.
“I know his shoe size, I know where he lives, I know what sleigh he drives, but I’m still working on his identity,” he said in passing on East Main Street.
We later learned that by all accounts the Santa who is stationed at the caboose in the park is the real deal.
Like most who happened to be downtown Saturday, Schofield said the positive vibe of the holiday spirit was unmistakable.
“If you have to work, this is the best day to work,” he said. “Everyone is in a good mood. The kids are doing their scavenger hunt, there are people roasting marshmallows over there, all the stores are open, Santa Claus is running around town. It’s fun.”
One person who was working but still enjoying the atmosphere was postman Barry Lavender.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “Everyone is out; everyone is smiling; my wife is a little angel…”
He meant that, literally.
Mary Lynn Lavender, the event’s Christmas Angel, was earning her wings by handing out scavenger hunt bags to the kids at the Welcome Center.
“People are very much in a Christmas mood today,” she noted. “The kids are coming in here dressed up, the parents have smiles on their faces from ear-to-ear. Some are even coming, singing Christmas carols. What could be better?”
Richard Reitz, former Record Express editor sporting a vintage Seattle Mariners cap in honor of their recent acquisition of Robinson Cano, was out with his family.
“We did the scavenger hunt, and we’re getting ready to do the horse and carriage ride.”
Knowing that most editors love free hand-outs (not bribes), we asked what was the best treat on the street during the scavenger hunt.
“Ooh. Uhh. There were so many good ones…”
Stop being so diplomatic, Rick.
“Dylan (his son) will probably tell you the candy was his favorite,” he finally revealed. “The Wilbur Buds are always popular. They don’t last long.”
Meanwhile, Dylan was more focused on scouting for out-of-town license plates. He spotted cars from Florida, New Hampshire and California. He was particularly excited when he thought he found a U-haul from Africa, but it was actually shorter move from Arizona.
Over at Lititz El, Jackie Pixley and Marleise Emrhein were helping out as Volunteer Elves.
“What do volunteer elves do?” we asked.
“Spread Christmas joy,” said Elf Jackie.
That means certifying young elves and helping kids with crafts and games.
When Jackie and Marleise are not busy lending a pointed ear to local Christmas events, they’re active in the community through Warwick High School’s Interact Club.
Music at the school included concerts by Steven Courtney, Sebastian Janoski and the Ryeland Harp Ring.
“People think there aren’t a lot of harps around, but there are… It’s becoming more common,” said Cathleen Sauber, ringleader of the ring.
Many may not know, but harp popularity experienced a boom during the 1970s, Sauber explained.
“Up until then, they had almost died out,” she said.
The sound was perfect for Christmas in the halls at Lititz Elementary.
Back to the outdoors:
Sharon McGuire from New Jersey was in town with her son for a soccer tournament, the PA Classics Winter College Showcase, which was taking place at the Warwick High School campus. Between games, they were exploring downtown Lititz and stopped by the Troop 142 fire ring to warm up for a few minutes.
“This is our first time in Lititz,” she said. “It’s wonderful. We ate at the pizzeria down the street, and passed by the funnel cakes, and now we’re roasting marshmallows… and I really like the town. It’s nice and clean, and we’re really impressed with the number of people on the street on such a cold day.”
“Impressive.” That’s the perfect word to describe an event of this magnitude; an event that attracts locals and tourists alike; an event that could not happen without dozens of dedicated volunteers.
That’s a Merry Lititz Christmas for you.