On a crisp fall evening, the holiday season officially kicked off on Thursday in downtown State College with plenty of holiday cheer at the annual Christmas tree lighting.
The event, organized by the Downtown State College Improvement District, showcased five local school musical groups that performed classic Christmas tunes. Their music built up the anticipation of the crowd, which was waiting for Santa to bring the magic needed to light the tree located at the Allen Street gates.
George Arnold, director of DID, stood at the rear of the stage with a bright smile as he greeted folks who passed. With “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” being sung in the background, Arnold said he looks forward to the tree lighting every year.
“It’s a wonderful event to help kick off the Christmas season,” Arnold said. “It’s great to bring the community together to enjoy the spirit of the season.”
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The music bounced off of the buildings and could be heard from Growing Tree Toys, located on the corner of Allen Street and Beaver Avenue. Kay Emigh has been the owner of the toy store for 35 years and she said that it’s events like the tree lighting and the joy it brings to the children that keeps her going strong in the business. To celebrate the night, Growing Tree Toys provided a craft station for children to decorate an ornament to take home.
As children and families left the toy store they enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate provided by Webster’s Bookstore Cafe or warm spiced cider from Irving’s Bagels. Insomnia Cookies brought 500 cookies, which could be seen in the hands of children on their dads’ shoulders — a perfect spot to see Santa as he made his way to the stage.
Any child who donated a toy to Toys for Tots or a canned good to the State College Food Bank was entered into a drawing to help Santa light the tree. With Santa overlooking the crowd, the much-anticipated moment had arrived. Four-year-old Molly Patrick was the big winner.
Accompanied by her mom, she made her way to the stage where she and Santa pointed a set of sleigh bells toward the tree. As the crowd counted down to zero the magic of Christmas was once again realized and the tree was lit for the holiday season.
Molly’s mom, Colleen Patrick, said she was surprised when she heard her daughter’s name called and while Molly was nervous on stage, she was happy to have the opportunity.
“This was really special,” Patrick said. “This is something we won’t forget for a long time.”