By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer Commonwealth Journal
Somerset’s very own kick-off to the holiday season has been deemed a rousing success, thanks to a theme that strikes close to the heart for many and unseasonably warm temperatures.
“I believe it was probably one of the best (parades) I’ve ever seen,” said Lynda Evans, assistant to the executive director of the Downtown Somerset Development Corporation (DSDC). “There were lots of participants and lots of people there.”
Saturday’s Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade, and the ceremonial lighting of the downtown Christmas tree (made possible by the county government and Downtown Somerset Development Corporation) saw hundreds and hundreds of spectators who gathered in downtown Somerset to take part in the annual events.
“This was the most exciting Christmas on the Square I have been a part of,” said Tiffany Bourne, Community Development Director for Pulaski County government. “The weather was beautiful and the crowd was amazing.”
This year’s theme, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas (A Tribute to the Troops),” was carried out in honor of those who may be spending Christmas on active duty and in harm’s way — and in celebration of those who were fortunate enough to return home to spend the holidays this year with family.
“Of course, that kind of strikes close to home for anybody,” said Evans.
The parade, sponsored by the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, featured about 70 units, many of them with participants who showed their support of soldiers and their families in keeping with this year’s military-inspired theme.
And Santa Claus himself made an appearance by catching a ride with a local fire department — although his ample supply of treats was made scarce by the end of the route, thanks to the sheer number of eager kids who lined the streets of Somerset.
“From the parade to the Christmas program, to the lighting (of the tree) ... I loved having so many people happy and in the Christmas spirit in downtown Somerset,” Bourne said.
After the parade, many gathered in the Pulaski Court of Justice Plaza for the annual lighting of the downtown Christmas tree, which stands over 18 feet tall. The tree is adorned with approximately 800 lights and colored streamers running down the length in theme-appropriate red, white and blue hues.
Bourne said Pulaski Countians can “100 percent” expect to see the tree returned to its familiar home, Fountain Square, next Christmas. The tree was located to the judicial center plaza this year due to impending construction to the Fountain Square.
“We loved having it (the Christmas tree) in the judicial center plaza, but it just doesn’t feel right with it not on the square,” Bourne said.
Following the lighting, the Massey Sisters, a well-known vocal trio from this area, honored 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.
The Massey Sisters’ performance was one of Evans’ favorite parts of the day.
“I thought the Massey Sisters were just excellent,” said Evans. “They just made the whole theme with the Andrews Sisters songs.”
Emcee John Alexander read 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.
Attendance at Saturday’s Christmas events were no doubt bolstered by the decidedly non-winter temperatures that have swept into the area. Boots and sweaters weren’t as common sights as short sleeves and sandals.
But that didn’t dampen the Christmas cheer. According to the event’s organizers, the Christmas spirit was still very much in place.