With a chill in the air, twinkling lights illuminating shops and homes, and decorations going up all over, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Catoctin area.
The town of Emmitsburg started decorating for the holidays with wreaths the week before Thanksgiving. They added new garland around the square this year, and, of course, the annual Christmas Tree adorns the bank corner on the square. Three of Emmitsburg’s Public Works crew—Chris Wantz, Darrell Lambright, and Davy Wantz Jr.—put up the decoations. Davy Wantz said, “Some people were asking why we were putting the decorations up so early. I told them we wanted to get it done while the weather was good.” Emmitsburg resident, Boyle ????? said, “I enjoy the decorations and look forward to the holiday activities that take place every year.” Emmitsburg residents Bev Adams, Frankie Fields, and Audrey Glass, all recall fond memories of the fresh pine swag decorations that were created by ladies in Emmitsburg. That project was spearheaded by the late Ann Dingle.
The town of Thurmont started decorating before Thanksgiving in order to get everything beautiful in time for the Christmas season. The Electric Department, comprised of four employees, was tasked with hanging all the decorations and lights in Thurmont. According to Chief Administrative Officer Jim Humerick, it takes approximately 240 man hours over the span of a week and a half to get everything decorated for the holidays. With last year’s introduction of the new streetlights on Main Street, new decorations had to be purchased. In an effort to spread the cost over a three-year period, the town opted to purchase and introduce the decorations over time. The new decorations, which included garland and wreaths, were introduced last year. Of the 62 new streetlights, 48 now are complete with the new decorations. The angels, which had been used with the old, taller streetlights, have been moved to the Thurmont Community Park. “Last year was the first year the angels were relocated to Community Park, and the community really liked it. It makes a nice ambience for Christmas,” stated Humerick.
For several years, Thurmont Electric Supervisor Gary Hodges has been part of the staff charged with decorating Thurmont. Having been with the town for ten years, Hodges happily added, “There is never a dull moment when decorating for Christmas in Thurmont. But everyone works together to get it done in a timely manner, and in the end, it is all worth it.” In addition to all of their other responsibilities within town, the electric department staff must hang all the decorations. This task includes checking all the bulbs and replacing dead bulbs. Although the task may sound overwhelming at times, Hodges stated, “It is a great thing, very rewarding knowing everyone and all the kids enjoy it!”
Although the decorations were hung before Thanksgiving, the lights (minus those on the town Christmas tree), were not scheduled to be lit until the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. In addition to our towns’ celebrations and decorating, the community has also gotten into the spirit of the season.
Virginia LaRouche, owner of Timeless Trends Boutique on Main Street began around Halloween decorating the shop with her staff. “Every year we close for a week, cover the windows so no one can peak, decorate for the holidays, and open for our Holiday Open House,” stated LaRouche. LaRouche and her daughter, Mary Guiles, choose a new theme for each holiday season. Once settled on this year’s theme of “home for the holidays,” the five staff members set out to magically transform the shop into a beautifully decorated home away from home. With the focus on family and being home for the holidays, the boutique is filled with holiday décor suitable for every style home, from primitive to modern to Victorian. This year, the shop houses no less than twenty-one decorated Christmas trees, in addition to furniture for the holidays, and loads of unique decorations. Regular customers, along with the community, have come to look forward to this official kick-off to the holiday season. Much time and care is spent decorating the store for the holidays, especially the shop window. “I get so excited…worse than a little kid on Christmas Eve. I love taking down the paper and revealing the window,” stated LaRouche. The twinkling lights and magical store transformation delights customers and residents alike. Everyone seems to look forward to the introduction of the season.
Nick Kinna, manager of the Mountain Gate Family Restaurant, agrees. Having been with the Mountain Gate since 1992, Kinna has witnessed how their regular customers, and the community at large, enjoy the restaurant’s kickoff to the holiday season, when they officially open their life-size Nativity Scene and light their Christmas trees. “The regulars look forward to it being opened. We always get calls to see if we have opened it yet. People are glad to see it,” Kinna added.
“I think it is awesome that they do that. I love it. It is really gorgeous!” stated Teresa Williams, a Brunswick resident and regular customer, who has been coming back to the Mountain Gate for twenty years.
Area residents Bern and Terry Sweeney also decorated early this year. “I am ready for it. I get excited this time of year when we get to decorate and put the trees up,” said Terry Sweeney. With five daughters and eight grandchildren, the Sweeney home is always full for the holidays. “I have always gone all-out for Christmas. I like to turn out the lights and just look at the Christmas lights.”
Frank and Jody Kurtz, who have lived in their current home since 1996, also decorated a bit earlier this year. “We missed it last year because we were busy traveling a lot, and I was not going to miss it this year,” stated Frank Kurtz. “I like Christmas. It is a way to look back and see what you are thankful for and a reflection of why we are here.” The Kurtz’s, together, coached youth league and high school cross country and track for eleven years in the community.
During a time when many in the country are struggling to find hope, and in spite of the barrage of negative news dominating the nation, it is a gift and blessing to be a part of such a close-knit community, spreading the joy of the season.
“Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.” —Kris Kringle, Miracle on 34th Street.
Photos by Anita DiGregory