‘Christmas miracle’ snow flurries accent tree-lighting

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Bundled up in hats, gloves and scarves against frigid temperatures, thousands packed Center Square in Greencastle to welcome the holiday season at the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony Friday, Nov. 18.

“I thought some of you would chicken out, but here you are,” said emcee Greg Hoover of WRGG.

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The revelers got a holiday surprise when — as if on cue — snow flurries started to fall just after the tree was illuminated.

A crowd packed Center Square in Greencastle for the tree-lighting ceremony on Friday, Nov. 18.

“It’s a Christmas miracle!” more than one person was heard to exclaim as some youngsters — and others just young at heart — turned up their faces and opened their mouths to catch a flake or two.

Light snow fell as people celebrated the lighting of the Christmas tree on Center Square in Greencastle.

The annual celebration organized by the Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce is supported by a contingent of volunteers and sponsors. It featured with balloons, bells, popcorn balls, cookies and carols, while Greencastle-Antrim School District instrumentalists and vocalists performed songs of the season.

Lights of Love, purchased in honor and memory of loved ones, sparkled on the tree donated by the Sobol-Flowers family of Catherine Street — David, Megan, Carter and Jaxson.

Brielle McCurdy, 6, a student at Greencastle-Antrim Primary School, lit the Christmas tree in Greencastle Friday and served as grand marshal of the Christmas parade the following morning.

Greencastle-Antrim Primary School student Brielle McCurdy, 6, chosen as grand marshal of Saturday’s Christmas parade, lit the tree using a magic wand as people in the crowd jingled their bells.

The Bittner sisters, from left, Amelia, 8 months, Evelyn, 4, and Clara, 2, daughters of Drew and Jordan Bittner of Everett, enjoyed the tree-lighting ceremony in their father’s hometown Friday, Nov. 18, in Greencastle.

The group ranged from young to old and included the Bittner sisters, Evelyn, 4, Clara, 2, and Amelia, 8 months, daughters of Drew and Jordan Bittner of Everett. Drew Bittner grew up in Greencastle, the family makes the trip to Greencastle annually for the Christmas parade and added the tree-lighting to their tradition this year.

There were festive four-legged friends, too, like Hudson a sheepadoodle who just turned 1. Owned by Lisa and Dennis Appleby of Hagerstown, he was eye-catching in a red and white sweater.

Lisa and Dennis Appleby of Hagerstown brought Hudson, their sheepadoodle who just turned 1, to the tree-lighting ceremony in Greencastle.

Todd Streett of Edward Jones traded in his day job as a financial adviser for his annual appearance as the town crier and got the party started declaring, “The time is 7 in the best little town this side of heaven … may joy and merriment fill the air.”

“We are the greatest community in the greatest country in the world,” said Antrim Township Supervisor Chad Murray. He said it was hard to believe just three short months ago people filled the Square for Old Home Week. Both the tree-lighting and Old Home Week rely on many people behind-the-scenes, Murray added, thanking Debby Cunningham, executive director of the chamber, and her volunteers. He also gave a shoutout to the fire police who were directing traffic while the town’s main drag was shut down for the celebration.

Some members of the Greencastle-Antrim High School band sported holiday attire as they performed for the community tree-lighting ceremony.

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr. led the crowd in the chant “We are … G-A!”

He encouraged everyone to support and love each other during the holidays, to shop small and support stores in the community and “Go tell it on the mountain, across the Square and everywhere that Jesus Christ is born.”

Cunningham also recognized the great businesses, volunteers and residents of the community. She noted the holiday celebration continues with Heritage Christmas and this year’s theme is “Peace on Earth.” Planned from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. the first two Fridays in December, Dec. 2 and 9, it will include giveaways by community groups, children’s activities, vendors, entertainment, horse and buggy rides and photos with Santa.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at