Although cold weather and "snow flurries" made it seem normal, Charlottesville illuminated its downtown Christmas tree last night, and Santa Claus arrived in a horse-drawn carriage, both about a week earlier than in previous years. (The tree-lighting ceremony usually happens after Thanksgiving.)
General Registrar Sheri Iachetta led the crowd at Central Place -- which included many local children, as well as their parents -- in the singing of Christmas songs (Meredith Willson's "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," and Johnny Marks' "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," among others) while NBC29's Annie Scholz and Channel 19's Bo Sykes shared the emcee's microphone.
Charlottesville City Councilor Julian Taliaferro and Albemarle County Supervisor Sally Thomas presented awards to three local students. The Charlottesville Downtown Business Association announced the award winners in advance of the event:
In addition to Santa’s welcome, three local students, one from the City, one from the County, and one from the local private schools will be honored with this season’s Holiday Spirit Award.
This year's Holiday Spirit Awards go to:
Mylaya Simpson - Mylaya Simpson is a sixth grader at Walker Upper Elementary School. She is active in service and leadership activities. Mylaya's attitude is always positive and she has a unique way of having others look to her as an example. She brings those around her up, as well. Mylaya is serious about her academics, goal-oriented and determined to have a bright future for herself and those around her.
Eric Hahn - Eric Hahn is an outgoing 8th grade student at Henley Middle School [who] is highly involved in his school and in the community. He is president of the Student Council Association and his leadership and enthusiasm is contagious! Whether he is volunteering on a Saturday morning for a civic organization or a school fundraiser, he does it with purpose and commitment.
Cephra Stuart - Cephra Stuart is an 11th grade student from Shipman, Virginia. Her boundless good nature and deep sense of compassion embody the spirit of joy and generosity that define the holiday season. Cephra is an outstanding student and a model citizen at St. Anne's Belfield School.
NBC29 has a story about one of the award winners here. WCAV-TV has a story about the Ferguson family, who donated the Christmas tree, here.
I caught a few highlights from the event on video:
For those who want the essence of the "Grand Illumination" of the tree with 20,000 lights, here is the countdown to the tree lighting (just 25 seconds):