Tree lighting, parade usher in holiday on Saturday
by Chris Harris Commonwealth Journal
Usually Christmas colors are red and green. In Pulaski County this year, however, they’ll be red, white and blue.
That’s in keeping with this year’s military-inspired theme, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas (A Tribute to the Troops),” remembering those loved ones who may be overseas or in harm’s way, unable to spend the holidays back home — or, if fortunate, arriving back on American soil long enough to enjoy those happy times.
This Saturday, both favorite annual events — the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade, and the ceremonial lighting of the downtown Christmas tree (as made possible by the county government and Downtown Somerset Development Corpor-ation) — will be held together, bringing together the community as one.
“I’ve been here for 20 years,” said Lynda Evans, assistant to the executive director of the Downtown Somerset Development Corporation (DSDC), “and I’ve heard so many people say that (the event) brings out such a sense of camaraderie and coming together.”
This year’s tree stands over 18 feet tall — and, thanks to the renovation of the Fountain Square, at the judicial center plaza for the first time. The new home also brings a new look for the tree, which is adorned with approximately 800 brilliantly-shining lights and colored streamers running down the length in theme-appropriate red, white and blue hues.
“It’s a really pretty tree,” said Tiffany Bourne, Community Development Director for Pulaski County government. “We did something different with the streamers this year. Some of us girls came up with the idea. It’s something a lot of people are doing these days.
“Rita Curry (deputy judge-executive) came up with it,” Bourne added, joking, “I think she saw it on Pinterest.”
The tree lighting, with the switch flipped by Pulaski Judge-Executive Barty Bullock and Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler, will likely take place at approximately 7:30 p.m., following the parade.
Evans noted that after last year’s bitterly cold even, fewer entertainment acts were scheduled this year so as to keep people out in bad weather for a shorter amount of time, but the ones they do have are sure to please.
The Massey Sisters, a well-known vocal trio from this area, will be honoring the World War II era by performing in the style of another set of musical siblings — the famed Andrews Sisters, household names in the 1940s.
“We’re singing ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,’ ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,’ songs in the style of the Andrews Sisters,” said Heather Massey, one of the group’s members and a music teacher at Somerset High School. She noted that with her and her sisters’ backgrounds in music education, they were already familiar with the historical contributions of the Andrews Sisters and enjoyed the chance to bring those famous numbers to live once more here in Somerset.
“This is a great opportunity to perform these works,” she said. “They’re three sisters, we’re three sisters, so the harmonies came together because the timbres of our voices match pretty well.”
Additionally, emcee John Alexander will be reading a letter he found and researched at the Pulaski County Library, a message from a marine dated December 17, 1944 to his two little boys back home. The trip back into time will be sure to stir the hearts of those in attendance as they get a glimpse into what life was like during World War II on the homefront and away.
“I wanted to be able to show that the same things we worried about back then are the same things we worry about now,” said Alexander. “The letter explains to the boys why he’s doing what he’s doing. It talks about bullies and how that’s why (he’s fighting), so that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen again down the road and other fathers don’t have to spend Christmases away from their sons.”
The parade, sponsored by the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, will feature about 70 units, and travel about 1.4 miles over a two-hour period. The parade will form at Meece Middle School; move west along East Mt. Vernon Street; turn north on College Street and proceed past Somerset High School; turn west on Oak Street; then south on North Main Street past Fountain Square, and onto Spring Street, ending about 7 p.m. in the Pulaski Court of Justice parking area.
These events have become a tradition in Somerset over the decades, and helps usher in the holiday season with goodwill and fellowship, noted Evans.
“We live in such a fast-paced world anymore, nobody usually gets to see their family and close friends as much as they would like,” she said. “When you come out to an event like this, it makes it special to get to see people. It’s just a fun sense of Christmas.”