The holiday season arrived in Tamaqua over the weekend, bringing the winter weather along with it. When the festival started, on Thursday night, with the historical walking tour, temperatures were comfortable enough to enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Downtown. By last night's tree lighting in Depot Square Park, more than an inch of snow added to the ambience of the festive scene. This is the 21st year that Tamaqua has lit a community Christmas tree.
About 150 people gathered in the Park to hear the Tamaqua High School Jazz Chorale, under the direction of John Buglio, perform several holiday classics. During the final selection, the tree lights were turned on, completing the illumination of the Park, which was started on Friday night by Santa and Mrs. Claus. The dancing lights and sound show will grace the Park throughout the holiday season and are designed and installed annually by Frank Fabrizio, of Brockton. Borough employees also helped with the installation of tree lights.
Prior to the tree lighting, the winners of the tree decorating and cookie baking contests were announced. Taking home top honors in the cookie contest this year were Dorothy Blasko, for her decorated sour cream cutout cookies, Joe Griffin, for his Norwegian cookies, Jennifer Betz, for her Rudolph's peanut butter cookies, and Christine Zamudio, for her orange slice cookies. The contest is sponsored by the Tamaqua Beautification Association, which also sponsors the tree lighting. Kevin Steigerwalt, president of the organization said there were 10 entries in the cookie contest this year. Marian Catholic High School's Student Council captured the prize for the tree decorating contest, with their blue and gold themed tree. There were 11 entries in the contest and all of the trees will be donated to area families who are in need of a tree this year.
One of the other highlights of the weekend included the popular Breakfast with Santa, which was sponsored by the Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission. According to Jason Boris, the executive director of the ESRC, the 140 people who attended the 13th annual event made up one of the largest crowds that have ever met with the jolly old elf for breakfast. Both Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman greeted children following the breakfast.
Other events held over the weekend included an afternoon of holiday movies for children at the Salvation Army and the popular Pub Crawl, which featured several community establishments. Tamaqua's oldest home, the Burkhardt Moser cabin, was also decorated and open for a holiday tour.
District Magistrate Stephen Bayer closed the tree lighting ceremony and the festival with a few words of wisdom that he has gained over the years of holiday celebration. "If you're under 20, it's more about the material goods that you get," he said, "but when you're over 20, it becomes more about the events themselves." Bayer reminisced how as a child he and his sister both had their Christmas wishes from Santa fulfilled when he got a 201 electronic project kit and she got an EZ Bake oven. "It wasn't long before we combined the two, and that did not turn out so well," he joked. "Today, it is about getting the tree, seeing family and friends that you don't see throughout the rest of the year," he said. Bayer also remarked on the popular Coal Region tradition of boilo tasting parties.
"Christmas becomes about charity, understanding, and patience. At this time of year, that comes naturally. We are more inclined to let things slide," he said, "and that is what this season is truly about." Bayer closed his remarks by asking everyone to commit at least one act of kindness over the holidays. "We will truly be a better community for it," he said.
Following the tree lighting, everyone was invited to the Tamaqua Ambulance Association building to enjoy the Christmas cookies and hot chocolate. The Spirit of Christmas Festival is sponsored by the Tamaqua Community Partnership and supported by the Tamaqua Chamber of Commerce, as well as many other community organizations and local businesses.