Shine On: Chamber’s Tree Lighting Revives Community Tradition


A new generation of kids now have a reason to gather around the Christmas tree.

At the Greater Severna Park and Arnold Chamber of Commerce (GSPACC) tree lighting on December 2, a large evergreen tree was illuminated for the first time in decades. Due to budget restraints, the chamber has had to forgo the large tree and use a smaller holly tree in front of the building in recent years.

During the event, families chanted a 10-second countdown for the holly tree to be lit. Then, GSPACC CEO Liz League announced that a second countdown was needed for a surprise.

At more than 70 feet tall and 40 feet wide, the illuminated evergreen tree is a big presence. The Big Bean, The Matt Wyble Team of Century 21 New Millennium, and Maryland Lighting and Sprinklers made it possible.

“Growing up outside New York, with the Rockefeller Christmas tree, naturally I saw this tree and said, ‘Has it ever been lit?’” said Greg Coster, who owns The Big Bean with his wife, Christie. “There are generations that don’t remember if it’s been lit. And I’m like, ‘Let’s do it,’ because it will bring people out not just tonight but throughout the whole month of December. It’s magical.”

Maryland Lighting and Sprinklers owner Barnabas Domowski said the tree is adorned with more than 6,000 lights. Four workers assembled the display in 22 hours.

“We were just looking to give back and get involved with our local community,” Domowski said. “We’ve already discussed we are going to make this a long-term thing and do this every year with the chamber.”

Coster and Matt Wyble were at the ZackFest golf fundraiser in September when Wyble recalled the big tree being visible from all over town after it was lit. While golfing, Wyble joked, “I want so many lights on this tree you can see it lit up from an airplane flying overhead.”

A fourth-generation Severna Park resident, Wyble got his wish. The tree will draw visitors from all over town.

Not only did families watch the tree being lit on December 2, but they also enjoyed refreshments and music. Severna Park Elementary fifth-graders sang “O Christmas Tree,” “Frosty The Snowman” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town.” Performers from The Dance Center of Severna Park and Creative Force Dance Center also performed.

In front of the smaller holly tree, Santa posed for pictures with kids.

“I think what makes it special is that there’s so many kids, so much joy and local businesses,” said Freeman Bagnall, dressed as Santa. “It’s a whole lot going on in a small area with a lot of hard workers, like Liz League.”

Esther Wallace brought her two children, Charlotte and Cooper, for the festivities.

“I love the big tree,” Wallace said. “I saw during the week how they put it up. I was excited to see it lit and it’s beautiful.”

Her favorite aspect of the tree-lighting event is seeing the community come together.

“You see a lot of neighbors, friends, kids who my kids go to school with,” she said. “It’s festive.”

The tree will stay illuminated every night from 5:00pm to 10:00pm throughout the holiday season.

League credited the successful event and the big tree’s comeback to the love that small businesses have for the community.

“Three small companies joined forces to make a shared vision come to reality – that of recreating history and bringing to life an evergreen that hadn’t been lit for over 30 years,” League said. “It was an incredible experience to see the tree light up in all its glory, and the crowd of hundreds were overjoyed.

“There were adult attendees who remembered the tree when it was small and manageable, and showed up to see it shine again,” she said. “The tree is now a beacon in Severna Park, visible for miles and even on flights coming into BWI [airport]. It was a very special night, and I am so grateful to our community and our small businesses who want to share happiness.”


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