Christmas is coming to Huntingdon and all ages are welcome to come and celebrate it during the annual tree-lighting ceremony Friday, Dec. 6.

For the third year, Deb Hickes is leading the festivities, with the help of Debbie Higgens and Huntingdon Borough Mayor David Wessels.

“We just want to promote family fun in downtown Huntingdon,” said Hickes. “These are the kinds of things I remember from my childhood and I hope it gives families something to remember from their own childhood.”

Not only will the celebration include the lighting of the town’s tree, a balsam fir that stands about 26 feet in height, but also the story of Gander, the Christmas pony, vendors and entertainment.

“The tree is up on the 700 block of Washington Street and festivities will begin at 6 p.m. with Daze Gone Bye carriage rides, food trucks, food vendors and a live Nativity,” said Hickes. “Entertainment will include the Abby Trio, Take Note and dancers from the Huntingdon Dance Academy. The lighting of the tree will begin at 7 p.m. with the HAHS music department.”

Hickes said the real highlight of the night will be a children’s story that comes to life and will be read by “Santa” himself. Playing Santa will be Paul Sheets.

“Sharing the magic of the season is what Paul Sheets has been doing for the past 10 years,” said Hickes. “As a pastor for over 40 years, he battled the annual attention given to Santa Claus instead of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wondered if a pastor could reflect the truths of the birth while utilizing America’s focus on Santa.”

Hickes said a seamstress in Sheets’ church in Middleburg offered to sew a Santa suit for him and the “spark” became a reality.

“Since then, from November through December, Paul has visited local churches, senior citizen centers, ministry programs, tree lightings and multiple families seeking annual pictures with Santa,” she said. “In a chance meeting, this gentleman was invited to the community of Huntingdon to share his obvious spirit of the season by participating in the annual tree lighting. His aura of Santa is infectious and, upon sight, you’ll understand there’s something very special about him.”

A time to visit this special Santa will follow the lighting at Sweetheart’s Confectionary on Washington Street.

Hickes is thankful to all those who’ve come together to help make the tree, ceremony and festivities possible.

“The tree was cut at Tuckaway Tree Farm in MacAlevys Fort and was greatly discounted for the community,” she said. “On top of that, it’s sponsored by Team Chevrolet.”

While Tuckaway Tree Farm is not open for business this year, Hickes said the owners graciously allowed the tree to be cut and they’ve secured a tree for next year, too. Borough maintenance crews helped to put the tree in place and trim it.

Hickes said she hopes the festivities grow each year.

“We want it to grow,” she said. “We want to introduce new ideas and we want it to grow. For example, this year we have all local vendors and I feel really good about that.”

In addition to Team Chevroley and Tuckaway Tree Farm, event sponsors include: Mutual Benefit Group, First National Bank/Trust Department, Copy-Rite, Huntingdon Offset Printing Co., Juniata College, Simone Family Chiropractic, Go Geo HVAC, Baker Landscaping and Kelly Rucker.

In addition to those previously mentioned, participants and vendors include: Hesston Community Chapel, Thompson’s Candle Co., Richard Kane, Lauren Reed-Brown and Gander, Standing Stone Coffee Co., Backwoods Smoke Shack, Valley Kettle Corn, Muddy Run Tavern, the Salvation Army, Huntingdon Borough Police, Jeff Speck and the Huntingdon County Agricultural Association.

Following Friday evening’s festivities, a Christmas movie will be shown at the Huntingdon Cinema’s Clifton 5. Admission is the donation of a canned food item.

Becky can be reached at bweikert@huntingdondailynews.com.

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