Christmas tree lighting rechristened as “Miracle on Main Street”

By on August 9, 2017
A view of downtown Ephrata at Christmas time.Photo by Stan Hall

A combination of taillights, streetlights and traffic lights add festive colors to this unique photo of downtown Ephrata taken over the weekend. The Ephrata Review would like to wish everyone a very, Merry Christmas.

It’s not too early to begin thinking about Christmas, Ephrata Borough Council discovered this week.

The annual Christmas tree lighting and arrival of Santa is one of the Ephrata Borough’s premier events of the year, ushering in the holiday season.

While the yearly event occurs the Friday after Thanksgiving, it’s already time to finalize plans for an evening that will see thousands of people crowding into downtown Ephrata to enjoy the festivities.

David Boland, a Board member of both Downtown Ephrata Inc. and the Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce, and Chairman of the Christmas Committee, presented an event request for Santa’s arrival and the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony to Borough Council this week and informed the Board of some changes to this year’s event.

The evening is now named “Miracle on Main Street,” a festival collaborated by DEI and the chamber of commerce.

“This is the 94th year we’ve been putting up a tree (as a community),” Boland said.

From a small community get-together, the night has grown into a “destination event,” Boland said, and a name, other than “Christmas tree lighting” was needed to market the brand.

“It’s a huge event – about eight years ago, we had maybe 200 people standing around the tree, and last year, we had 7,000 people there,” Boland said. “It’s a community event, but we needed something to market that.”

The event continues to grow, and this year, organizers are expecting about 9,000 people, Boland said.

Along with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, the evening includes music by performers from the Ephrata Performing Arts Center, a calliope, toyland for the kids, horse-drawn carriage rides sponsored by the Landis Valley Farm Museum, plenty of food vendors, and a laser light show.

Paul Scott, formerly of radio WIOV, is the emcee for the night.

This year, pyrotechnics will be added to the light show.

The laser light show will originate from the new section of the Ephrata National Bank along Main Street, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus will arrive on the roof of the old section of the bank. The plan, Boland said, is to have the pyrotechnics behind the North Pole couple, making their appearance even more exciting.

Borough Police Chief William Harvey recently met with other township officials to do preliminary planning for the Christmas tree lighting event, with a focus on the pyrotechnics.

“These are not fireworks,” Harvey said. “These are low-impact, low incendiary, and low altitude for Christmas.”

Due to heavy crowds in previous years, the horse-drawn wagon ride routes have been changed for added safety, Boland said.

The rides are going to go behind the train station and up Rose Alley to the bank parking lot.

“We’ll be running the wagons completely out of the crowd,” Boland said.

The group is checking into the possibility of closing another parking lot to make it safer for the horses, Boland added.

In other business, Ephrata Borough’s Chesapeake Bay Pollution Reduction Plan and Pollution Reduction Plan for the Cocalico Creek are due to be submitted to Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection by Sept. 16 of this year.

With that in mind, the borough council began their work session Monday evening with a public hearing regarding the pollution reduction plan for the Borough.

Tom Natarian, director of operations for the borough, summarized the plan for Council members.

The borough was required to publicly advertise the plan for 30 days, when residents were able to view the substantial tome that contains the detailed plan, as well as present written comments to the council about the plan.

No comments were received and the review period ended Aug. 4.

The pollution reduction plan that the Borough currently follows, or its MS4 permit, will expire at the end of 2017.

The borough currently has a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, Small Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems permit, or MS4.

The permit regulates storm water that is captured by the borough and discharged to surface waters within Pennsylvania.

But the state’s Department of Environmental Protection requires that the borough renew its MS4 permit for the next five-year permit cycle, beginning in 2018.

Under the new permit, the borough will be required to reduce its baseload rates for total sediment to 10 percent; its total phosphorus to five percent; and total nitrogen by three percent.

To comply with the DEP’s requirements, the borough has to have enough “Best Management Practices, “ or BMPs, to meet those required sediment and chemical reductions.

The borough already has more than 50 functioning BMPs, Natarian said, which can be anything from a catch basin to a bio-swale, or other water-capturing area.

“We’ve identified every area where water can be captured so it doesn’t get to the creek,” Natarian said.

In the borough, Cocalico Creek and Gross Run are the two streams to be protected.

Natarian showed the council members aerial photos of current BMPs and a map of potential best management practices.

“We can show the state there are adequate BMPs in the borough and if we utilize those BMPs, we’ll be able to achieve the loading reduction they’re asking for,” Natarian said.

Councilman Tim Barr asked Natarian if grass clippings are a problem.

“Everywhere I go, I see them being blown into the storm sewer,” Barr said.

Because those grass clippings are nutrient-rich, they help algae to grow and clog the waterways, Natarian said.

They definitely are a problem, he added.

“Just about all of them end up in the creek,” Natarian said.

Most people want to do what’s best when it comes to protecting the environment, Natarian said, but they don’t always know what to do.

If needed, the borough could cite homeowners for littering if they continue to spray or sweep grass clippings into gutters, Natarian said.

“But we haven’t had to do that,” Natarian said. “We’ve been talking to individual folks and have been successful (in changing habits).”

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