By Dylan Roche
There’s some debate about when the Christmas season actually starts. Is it the Friday after Thanksgiving? The first Sunday of Advent? Maybe it has to be December 1?
In Severna Park, however, there can be no question: It’s the first Friday in December, when back-to-back festivities at the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce and at Park Plaza shopping center draw crowds of both young and old who are eager to get in the spirit of the season.
“I was extremely pleased,” said Liz League, CEO of the chamber, who organized the tree lighting for the first time this year after stepping into her position in January. “It was almost magical. It was quiet here right up until 5:00, and then out of nowhere, hundreds of people showed up.”
The chamber’s tree lighting ceremony started just as night was falling, and with Holly Avenue closed to vehicular traffic, families safely gathered to enjoy live holiday entertainment – bagpiper Michael Binnie, the chorus from Severna Park Elementary, and performers from Creative Force Dance Company – as well as visits from such characters as the Grinch and the Chick-fil-A Santa cow. Inside the chamber’s meeting room, the Toast Masters of Severna Park and Bruster’s Real Ice Cream provided refreshments.
After attendees counted down from 10 to watch the Holly Avenue tree light up for the first time this season, many worked their way over to Park Plaza for the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus on fire truck. The scene at the shopping center was equally lively with performances by choruses and bands from Severna Park High, Oak Hill Elementary, Broadneck High, South River High and North County High. Additionally, Creative Force Dance Company put on a crowd-pleasing show.
“Building on this event each year is fun to do,” said Nancy O’Meara, director of property management for Continental Realty, which handles Park Plaza. “We had more tenants involved this year, and the way we did it with the music groups spread throughout the center gave some of the tenants more exposure.”
At 6:00pm on the dot, a truck from Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company rolled onto the scene, carrying with it Santa and Mrs. Claus, who stepped off at Honey Baked Ham and greeted an enthusiastic group of youngsters eager for a chance to visit.
In exchange for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, youngsters were encouraged to bring a nonperishable food or monetary donation to SPAN.
“We had a very successful night,” said Ellen Kinsella, director of development for SPAN. “It was very rewarding seeing how people responded to our request.” In total, SPAN collected about 10 bags of food and $51.
Attendees of the Park Plaza festival even had the chance to start their holiday shopping by participating in a scavenger hunt. After they collected all the necessary bingo stamps from participating businesses, they were entered into a drawing. Leo and Gwyn Moore were the lucky winners of a gift basket full of items donated by Park Plaza merchants.
What a successful start to the season it was. Happy holidays, Severna Park!