Com­mu­nity gath­ers for Holly Tree light­ing

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By BRI­ANNA SHEA

— For many county res­i­dents, the an­nual light­ing of the Ce­cil County Holly Tree is more than a tree light­ing, it’s a fam­ily tra­di­tion.

“(I came) be­cause my grand­mother brought me when I was a lit­tle girl,” said Thelma Ell­wood, a North East res­i­dent who at­tended the light­ing cer­e­mony on Satur­day. “She passed away and it’s just another place I feel close to her.”

Ell­wood said the tra­di­tion of at­tend­ing the event is also im­por­tant to pass on to her 11-year-old daugh­ter, Jenna.

“It’s im­por­tant to bring my daugh­ter here to keep these lit­tle tra­di­tions alive,” she said.

Orig­i­nally dubbed The Trav­eler’s Tree in 1947, the Jack­son Sta­tion Road Holly Tree was lit ev­ery year through­out De­cem­ber un­til the 1970s. En­gi­neers for the Bal­ti­more

PER­RYVILLE

bshea@ce­cil­whig.com & Ohio Rail­road would wear the leaves and berries from the tree on their lapels. Trains would stop so its rid­ers could en­joy the stately tree.

Af­ter al­most a decade of dark­ness, the tree was lit again in 1985 and has been decked out and cel­e­brated ev­ery year since.

Be­fore the 69th an­nual light­ing on Satur­day, a few words were said to honor Mar­shall Bid­dle, a mem­ber of the Susque­hanna Amer­i­can Le­gion Post No. 135 in Per­ryville, who helped to raise funds to build the Holly Tree Cor­po­ra­tion’s vis­i­tor cen­ter. He passed away last year. Ann Bid­dle, Mar­shall’s widow, was also given a cer­tifi­cate in honor of his ef­forts.

Tr­ish Sex­ton, sec­re­tary/trea­surer with the HTC, then sur­prised the Bid­dle fam­ily with the honor of count­ing down to the light­ing.

A lit­tle be­fore 6 p.m., the Bid­dles counted and the lights turned on.

For North East res­i­dent, Melissa Gonce, see­ing the tree light up has be­come an in­te­gral part of the hol­i­day sea­son.

“It’s not Christ­mas with­out the Holly Tree,” she said.

Gonce has been com­ing to the event for the past 40 years.

“It has a lot of mem­o­ries,” she ex­plained. “When I was a kid, they used to have hot choco­late, cook­ies and lit­tle snacks. Santa used to give out candy canes.”

Gonce’s 9-year-old niece, Macken­zie, said she thought it was “cool” when the tree lit up.

“When they counted down, they sur­prised me when they turned it on,” she said.

MacKen­zie said she thought the tree was “pretty” and her fa­vorite color on the tree is blue be­cause “it’s blue as the sky.”

“It was ex­cit­ing be­cause I got to see her face light up,” Melissa Gonce said.

Be­fore the light­ing, two mem­bers of Girl Scout Troop 118 served as the honor guard while the Per­ryville High School March­ing Band per­formed. The Rev. Wil­liam Haw­ley and Don Horn­berger, of the Susque­hanna Amer­i­can Le­gion Post No. 135, also of­fered prayers.

There was also karaoke, with peo­ple able to per­form Christ­mas songs.

Af­ter the light­ing, Santa Claus made an ap­pear­ance and took pic­tures with chil­dren in the train’s ca­boose lo­cated in the vis­i­tor cen­ter.

“It’s im­por­tant to keep it go­ing (the Holly Tree light­ing),” Sex­ton said. “For peo­ple who have lived in the county, it’s al­ways been a part of our Christ­mas. Peo­ple around here have sto­ries.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY BRI­ANNA SHEA

The lights on the Ce­cil County Holly Tree in­clude a mul­ti­tude of col­ors.

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