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Tree Lighting is Part of Great Falls Charm

Santa's arrival on Dec. 5 marks start of holidays in Great Falls.

The annual holiday tree lighting celebration at Great Falls Village Centre will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5.

Santa will arrive at 6:30 p.m. sharp on the vintage Brogue Charities “Hose Company’s” fire truck, with Peter Garahan as official driver.

It is decorated with lighted reindeer, one with a red nose.

The tree will be lighted immediately after Santa arrives, when Robert Moore, the owner of Cannon Seafood, flips the switch.

“He asked me just the other day to get the red bows to go around the fencing,” said Helene Teel, manager of the Village Centre. “As usual, he is on top of things and making sure everything is ready.

“We just hope the weather will be good for the next couple of weeks,” she said.

Moore uses a cherry picker to check thousands of white light bulbs to replace those that are burned out. A huge red bow and lighted star trim the tree.

Gary Schmitz of Seneca Excavating puts up fencing for the petting zoo, which is provided by Jack Crippen.

He brings a camel, llamas, goats and sheep. Pony rides are also available, weather permitting.

Usually the event is either very cold or very warm; few years are moderate, Teel said.

Fresh apple cider from Winchester will be provided by Joe Ellingsworth of Teel Construction, with Boy Scout Troop 55 and troop leader Richard Studebaker providing the volunteers to serve it.

The Boy Scouts also help light the luminarias and help clean up when the festivities wind down.

Families should plan to arrive by 6 p.m., when the Herndon High School madrigals sing, conducted by Dana Van Slyke, said Teel.

Santa will arrive at 6:30, riding on a vintage red firetruck from Brogue Charities, and Mrs. Claus will help introduce him to the leagues of children who will come to see him. After the tree lighting, Santa and Mrs. Claus are driven via golf cart to his throne in the gazebo on the Village Green by Bud Gettier, who decorates the cart for Christmas.

They listen to Christmas wish lists while seated on a cozy love seat — lent by Lydie Payen, owner of Nails by Lydia — in the gazebo at the center of the Village Green.

Each child will depart with one of Santa’s own sleigh bells — donated by Wayne Groves, owner of Tricks of the Trade.

The Great Falls Lions Club will provide a gift quilt with woven scenes of Great Falls to keep Santa and the children warm, but Santa says he prefers the cold, said Teel.

After Santa comes, the traditional “horse nativity” will be presented at 7 and 7:30 p.m. in the northeast corner of the green. It originated and continues to be cast and directed annually by Margaret Johnson.

“Right now the horses are arguing over who is going to be a donkey and who is going to be a camel,” she said.

“I need two more horses, or one pony to play the donkey. They need to be calm and collected, mild not wild. School horses,” she said.

“I am now working on getting [human] participants,” Johnson said. “The ‘kings’ will have to know how to ride.

“If anyone wants to be in it, they should give me a call,” she said. Johnson’s number is 703-759-6937.

The annual tree lighting is sponsored by Moore, Johnson, Schmitz, Crippen, and the Village Centre business owners.

Popcorn is popped and distributed by Mike and Mary Kearney of Brogue Charities.