By Mary Spicer
The Christmas Season is about to arrive in downtown Meadville.
Friday night, the annual Light Up Meadville celebration combines with downtown merchants’ monthly First Friday series of events to kick off the holiday in a grand style indeed.
Start your evening at Meadville’s historic Market House, 910 Market St., where a festive reception sponsored by Friends of the Market House from 4 to 9 p.m. will feature complimentary cookies and hot chocolate, live hammer dulcimer music, demonstrations by participants in the Arts for Everyone program including calligraphy by Jan Hornath and spinning fleece into yarn by Judy Hannahan. Market House vendors will offer demonstrations and samples galore. Winners in the 2012 Save Our Swamp photography competition will be on exhibit at the A4E gallery.
Moving outside, carriages pulled by teams of massive Clydesdales and Percherons will make their way from the front of the Market House along Chestnut Street to Diamond Park, where they will circle for the return trip. Carriage rides — $3 for adults and $2 for children under 12 — will begin at 5 p.m. and continue until the Market House closes for the evening at 9 p.m.
Before departing Market Square, be sure to stroll around the exterior of the Market House to check out entrants in the Market House’s official tree-decorating contest. Judging for the contest’s coveted people’s choice awards begins Friday and will continue through market hours on Saturday, at which time awards will be distributed. Through Christmas, Market House hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Making your way along Chestnut Street, keep an eye out for participants in the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce’s 2012 Business Decorating Contest. As of Wednesday, participants include Meadville Fine Arts, Academy Theatre, Family to Family Home HealthCare, eKidzCare, Bush Investment Group, and the Downtown Mall Bistro in the Downtown Mall. Early in the evening, secret judges will visit participating stores to evaluate the decorations and holiday snacks; winners will be announced during the Diamond Park festivities. (It’s not too late to enter. Call the Chamber of Commerce at 337-8030 for an entry form.
At 5:30 p.m., COOL 101.7 FM will open the Diamond Park portion of the celebration with Christmas music for all. Complimentary hot chocolate will be provided by Wesbury United Methodist Retirement Community and cookies are being provided courtesy of area royalty, who also wrapped the gaily-decorated boxes surrounding the tree.
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” reveries featuring a “Pin the Heart on the Grinch” contest with Crawford County commissioners playing a surprise role will begin at 6 p.m. Coloring books will be provided by Crawford County Drug & Alcohol. While hearts are being pinned and the Grinch is being, well, grinchy, the community tree gracing the Gazebo, decorated by First National Insurance Agency, will be formally presented, a Christmas carols sing-along featuring the youth choir of Calvary Baptist Christian Academy as well as the aforementioned cookie-providing area royalty will involve the entire audience. And, of course, official proclamations will be read by local officials.
Santa Claus, scheduled to arrive at Diamond Park atop a fire truck, will help with the lighting of the Christmas tree and then lead a parade down Chestnut Street to the Downtown Mall, where festivities will continue as Santa hears Christmas wishes and passes out candy canes. Along the way, Santa will pause at the Park Avenue intersection to wave holiday lights on at the shops of @ the Bank and again at Market Street to wave on lights at the Market House.
A food drive has been organized to benefit Center for Family Services; non-perishable items may be dropped off between 5:30 and 6:30 at Diamond Park or between 6:30 and 7:30 at the Downtown Mall.
While Light Up Meadville has been taking place for years under the auspices of the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce, this year the Chamber gave the event a whole new spin by putting the 14 members of its current Leadership Meadville class in charge.
The Chamber’s Leadership Meadville program, designed to help develop area leaders of tomorrow, is now conducting its third round of classes. Focusing on building awareness of both leadership styles and local industries, the members come from a variety of backgrounds from throughout the area. The current class has been meeting monthly since August.
“The Leadership Meadville committee wanted to give the class a little bit of event-planning experience before they began on their big class project, which is the annual Chili-Chowder Soup Cookoff in March,” Karen Stout of the Chamber explained.
“The chamber challenged us to not only take on the project — but to make it bigger and better than ever,” Paula Jo Lynch, executive director of Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Crawford County as well as a member of the leadership class, said.
For Kerri Fleet, who is keeping track of all how the pieces are fitting together, Light Up Meadville has been a real adventure.
As administrative/human resources assistant for Northwestern REC, Fleet both lives and works in the Cambridge Springs area. After months of preparations, “It’s been nice to be able to meet with other community leaders and be able to set this up,” she said. As for what al is involved, “It’s really a lot of work to pull it together,” she said. “There were 14 of us. We’re all in charge of different aspects of the night — and we all pulled together to make it work,” she recalled. “Hopefully it will be a success.”
For Lynch, it’s worth all the effort. “I love Christmas — and I think everybody is a little bit happier because of it,” she said.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can go
Meadville Market House
4 to 9 p.m. — Reception sponsored by Friends of the Market House featuring music, demonstrations and food.
5 to 9 p.m. — Carriage rides from Market House to Diamond Park and back. $3 for adults; $2 for children under 12.
5 to 9 p.m. — Vote for your favorites in the tree decorating contest.
First Friday festivities sponsored by downtown merchants.
Business Decorating Contest participants (they’re also offering snacks).
5:30 p.m. — COOL 101.7 FM opens the celebration with music
6 p.m. — “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” celebration begins, complete with guest appearance by the Grinch himself.
— Ceremony at the Gazebo.
— Arrival of Santa.
Parade down Chestnut Street
6:30 to 7:30 p.m. — Santa hears Christmas wishes and distributes candy canes.