‘You better watch out…’

By on November 22, 2016
One of the largest crowds in recent memory descended upon downtown Ephrata last “Black Friday,” to celebrate the start of the holiday season and the arrival of Santa Claus. Photo by Dwight Palm

One of the largest crowds in recent memory descended upon downtown Ephrata last “Black Friday,” to celebrate the start of the holiday season and the arrival of Santa Claus. Photo by Dwight Palm

The weather for Friday evening’s Christmas tree lighting and Santa’s arrival should be “just right,” said Cindy Mellinger, co-chair of the Ephrata Christmas committee.

“It should be in the high 40s,” she said. “We have added an ice sculptor this year so we didn’t want it to be too warm like last year when temperatures were in the 60s when we started out.”

Mellinger, along with other co-chairs Jim Brown and David Boland, have worked hard to orchestrate the traditional “Christmas Winter Wonderland,” sponsored by sponsor Retreat at Lancaster County, in partnership with Downtown Ephrata, Inc. and the Ephrata Area Chamber of Commerce.

“With 40-plus volunteers, we’ll keep busy and have fun at the same time with games and activities, food, and of course Santa,” she said.

Mellinger said this year’s event will add new vendors and hopefully stretch out activities along a closed Main Street.

“We want to have vendors at Washington and Lake streets and extend down to State and Main,” she said. “It got so congested last year with almost 5,000 people that it was hard to cross the street.”

Mellinger gave a “very special thank you” this year to Steve Brown and the Ephrata Main Theatre for providing “a free, wholesome, family holiday medley of movies” which kicks off Friday events from 3 to 5 p.m.

Movies will run in both theaters and will consist of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in one theater and children -friendly titles such as “Rudolph,” “The Grinch,” and others in the second theater.

There will be many other activities such as singing, ornament-making, games, and horse-drawn wagon rides throughout downtown before one of Santa’s elves retrieves the “magical book of children’s names” from the vault at the Ephrata National bank.

Santa will arrive around 7:25 on the roof of the bank building and the Ephrata Pioneer Fire Company will once again assist Santa off the roof with the ladder truck in order to make his way to the much anticipated return to the train station to greet the children and receive their Christmas wishes.

“Beginning at 5:30 p.m. the downtown street will be hustling and bustling with activity as area residents begin to congregate in preparation for the annual excitement that only Santa can bring,” Mellinger said. “Everyone loves the downtown Christmas.”

She said the event, which has helped make Ephrata a destination site, has been around since the 1920s. The traditional tree lighting, now in front of Ephrata National Bank, first began in 1953 in the front yard of a house on Main Street with a normal-sized Christmas tree, according to Brown, director of facilities for Ephrata National Bank.

The bank and the Christmas committee also gave a special thanks to Nevin Rutt, who donated this year’s blue spruce holiday tree.

“It’s been going on for 50-some years. People love the lights, the carols, the beautifully decorated trees and the Norman Rockwell feel of this time honored tradition,” Mellinger said. “It’s always something that gives you goosebumps; it’s just magical when so many people come together, so very special.”

There will be selected food vendors from the Ephrata Fair ranging from elk and bison to chicken, cupcakes, and coffee.

Also planned, in partnership with the Ephrata Public Library, is a Toyland for the children in the Whistle Stop Plaza, along with free balloons, candy, hot cider, balloon sculptures by Art of Recycle, and song sheets.

With continued success, the Getz Steam Calliope, sponsored by The Ephrata National Bank, will return to play favorite Christmas Jingles. The calliope can be heard from as far as two miles away and is quickly becoming an Ephrata tradition for Santa’s arrival. Built in Lancaster County, it is believed to be the largest steam calliope in the world consisting of 40 whistles.

A new feature this year will be a live demonstration of an ice carving sculpture. Folks can watch as a 300-pound block of ice become transformed into two beautiful seasonal works of art, a Christmas tree and a Reindeer.

Paul B. Scott, former afternoon personality for I-105, program director and morning host for Smooth Jazz 92.7, Part-time traffic anchor WGAL-TV8, and professional voiceover for TV, radio and film (PS Productions), will be the master of ceremony for the evening.

Ephrata Performing Arts Center (EPAC) will entice the crowd to celebrate the holiday season by singing traditional Christmas carols. A highlight of the evening will be a memorable rendition of “O Holy Night” by Rich Repkoe. Additional music will be provided by the Big Boy Brass Band.

Rides will be available from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. ‘The Belsnickel’ will make his return to Ephrata this year.

Mellinger said the dazzling laser light show with special effects will round out the evening from the rooftop of ENB.

Sponsored by Graham’s Auto Sales & Service Inc, “this year boasts to showcase the most powerful and technologically advanced laser show in all of North America,” she said.

Local sponsors and supporters for the event include Blue Ridge Communications, Ephrata National Bank, Hometown Refurnishing, Kingsway Realty, Member’s 1st Federal Credit Union, Royer Pharmacy The Groves Retirement Home, Weinhold, Nickel & Company, LLP, and Santa’s Helpers: Beulah’s Candyland, Redners Markets, and TBS Sportswear & Promotions.

Here’s the schedule

3:00-5:00 Free movies at the Ephrata Main

5:30-7:30 Horse-drawn Wagon Rides

5:30-6:30 Getz Steam Calliope

6:00 Toyland will open with kid’s games and activities at the Whistle Stop Plaza

6:30 Live Music, Caroling & The Belsnickel’s arrival

6:30-7:15 Laser Light Show

7:25 Tree Lighting and Santa & Mrs. Claus arrival at Ephrata National Bank

7:45 Santa Visits at the Train Station

For more info about this event, how you can visit with Santa, or to volunteer check out EphrataChristmas.com

 

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