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Tamaqua welcomes holidays with Santa, tree lighting

Tamaqua’s 28th Annual Spirit of Christmas Festival kicked into high gear Friday evening with the lighting of Depot Square Park and the holiday tree, along with the arrival of Santa.

The activities, restructured because of rain, represented the first outdoor events following Thursday’s Mistletoe Reception held inside the Tamaqua Train Station Restaurant.

Instead of a Santa procession leading to Depot Square Park, a shortened version led to the covered concourse of the train station on the west side of the train tracks where attendees stayed dry.

“We moved everything over here this year,” said Judy Hoppes, chairman. “Everything can take place on this side.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus were escorted to the depot by Little Miss Spirit of Christmas Olivia Quick and her court, along with Frosty the Snowman.

There he led a countdown to the lighting of the community tree and the park.

Frank Fabrizio, lighting coordinator, said the park is illuminated with 35,000 to 40,000 lights.

“There’s a different color scheme this year. The light poles are wrapped in red and green.”

Fabrizio said the lights were donated by the Odorizzio family.

Hoppes said this year’s Miss Spirit and her court did an outstanding job in support of the event.

“They raised a significant amount of money, most of which goes to the park lights.”

The Rev. Dillon Epler, keynote speaker, spoke of the history of the Christmas tree and the tradition of holiday lights, and the greater meaning of the season.

“Community is all about what brings us together.”

He challenged attendees to look within themselves during the season, which brings dark hours associated with limited daylight.

“What is it during the darkest time of the year that brings you light?”

St. John Lutheran Church Choir performed holiday selections, including “Silent Night” illuminated by candles. The group was led by director Christine Betz.

Master of Ceremonies Anthony Odorizzi welcomed attendees and thanked Hoppes and Dan Odorizzi for working yearlong on the festival.

Above: More than 35,000 lights in holiday colors were turned on Friday night in Tamaqua, kicking off the 28th Annual Spirit of Christmas Festival.
Left: Youngsters of the Little Miss Spirit of Christmas contest escort Santa, Mrs. Claus and Frosty the Snowman to the lighting of Tamaqua Depot Square Park on Friday evening. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
The Rev. Dillon Epler challenges attendees at Tamaqua's Spirit of Christmas Festival to look within themselves to find what brings light.