Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tree lightings in Windham and Raymond signal the start of yule season - By Walter Lunt and Michelle Libby

The joyful event at Raymond Village Library had all the ingredients for the official launch of the Christmas season: A 40-voice chorus of favorite yuletide songs, a children’s story time, hot beverages and snacks, a fire truck, a brightly lit Christmas tree and, of course, Santa Claus. The party-like gathering of over 100 adults and children was Raymond’s 16th annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, sponsored by the Raymond Lions Club.
Following a read-aloud story time in the library, the Raymond Elementary School third and fourth grade chorus filled the late afternoon air, growing cold in the creeping darkness, with songs of the season: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Jingle Bells and, following Santa Claus Is Coming To Town…he did. First, to the delight of young and old, a raucous countdown from 10, the tree lighting, then Santa, who stepped from Raymond Fire Department’s engine one, merrily chanting Christmas greetings and ringing a bell.

For nearly an hour following his grand entrance (the first from a fire truck, according to the Lions) Santa greeted countless children and their parents promising to bring good cheer and presents Christmas morning.

Choral Director Patricia Gordon, clearly pleased with her group’s performance, said a majority of her singers show up for this event every year and “are always excited to do this.”

Lions Club president Dale Gilman observed that the “Raymond Village Library Christmas Tree lighting is a growing tradition, especially for the village.” Other Lions members, who were helping out at the event, were quick to credit the many who contribute to the affair every year: Bob Payne for donating the tree, CMP for the tree placement, and Raymond Elementary School, Fire Department and public works. All Lions spoke of the need for new members and urged residents to join the organization. The Raymond Lions Club supports numerous library programs and also awards several college scholarships each year to deserving high school seniors. For information on Raymond Lions contact Bob Wallace at 655-2222.

Saturday members of the Windham Land Trust turned out to Black Brook Preserve to string lights on a tree there. At least 15 people came to celebrate the season.

In Windham, the Windham Police and Fire Departments, Windham Public Works, the parks and recreation advisory committee, along with Linda Morrell, the Windham Town Council and the Windham Economic Development Corporation teamed together to put on the first annual tree lighting at the public safety building on Route 202. 

“It was certainly a group effort,” said Linda Brooks, director of Windham Parks and Recreation. “It went wonderfully. We accomplished all we hoped for and more.”  

“How’s your holiday spirit doing?” asked town manager Tony Plante after the Windham Primary School third grade chorus under the direction of Nancy Cash-Cobb sang holiday tunes. 

The tree was lit just before Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived on a fire truck to great the crowd of adoring children. Santa took pictures with the children and some lucky adults as well. Music was also provided by local musician Doug Elder. 

“People are planning what we can do for next year, the second annual,” said Brooks. Next year, they hope to have even more community involvement.

Wendy Lebel, Crystal Notte and Susan Lawson from Cross Church in Portland helped serve hot chocolate and sweet treats.

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