Currently viewing the tag: "Evening of Christmas Spirit"

James Rada, Jr.

Emmitsburg’s annual Evening of Christmas Spirit had little spirit this year because of COVID-19.

About a dozen people were on hand for the lighting of the town Christmas tree in front of the Emmitsburg Community Center on the evening of December 7, 2020. Christmas music played during the brief event that usually draws a crowd and has local students singing carols.

Mayor Don Briggs thanked the small group for coming out. He acknowledged the problems that COVID has caused this year, and said, “Sometimes you’ve got to go with what you can.”

Briggs asked Dacosta Wivell, 12 years old, and the only child at the event, to assist him with the countdown. Then the pair flipped the switch, and the lights came on.

In the past, “An Evening of Christmas Spirit” at the Carriage House Inn has followed the tree-lighting ceremony. The event typically draws hundreds of people both inside and outside of the restaurant who come to enjoy free food, music, crafts, hayrides, and Santa’s visit.

None of that happened in December. For the first time in 32 years, it was canceled. State restrictions on restaurants and gatherings because of the virus forced the closure.

Mayor Don Briggs and Dacosta Wivell congratulate each other after lighting the town’s Christmas tree.

Photo by James Rada, Jr.

James Rada, Jr.

On December 2, 2019, Emmitsburg residents celebrated its annual “Evening of Christmas Spirit,” sponsored by the Carriage House Inn, the Town of Emmitsburg, and the EBPA.

 The evening began with the lighting of the town Christmas tree at the Community Center. Before and after the illumination, youth choirs from Emmitsburg delighted attendees with their Christmas songs.

Following the short tree-lighting ceremony, the crowd moved down to the Carriage House Restaurant for the rest of the evening.

 A line of children quickly formed at the entrance of the restaurant to meet with Santa. Other children were inside in a dining room, making Christmas decorations.

Tina Ryder of Emmitsburg came with her niece, Vivienne Weiant, age six. It was Ryder’s first time attending. “It’s pretty cool. We really like the hayride,” Ryder said. “This is a good event. It gets all the kids to come out.”               

Outside, people could take a hayride or enjoy hot dogs, hot chocolate, and cookies. More food was upstairs in JoAnn’s Ballroom, as were the musical performances by area groups. Each year, around 800 hot dogs and 30 gallons of hot chocolate are served at the event.

Katelyn Mills of Thurmont was attending for her second time with Kristen Mills, age 10. Kristen said her favorite things about the evening were talking to Santa and taking the hayride.

Chris Fluke of Emmitsburg brought his children to the event. “This is a great event,” he said. “We really like riding around town on the hayride and seeing the lights.”

Ellie Fluke, age six, said she cried the first time she sat on Santa’s lap, but now she really likes coming to see him.

The Carriage House Inn sponsors the Evening of Christmas Spirit each year as a tribute to JoAnn Hance, who was the wife and mother of the Carriage House founders, Bob Hance and his father, Jim.

Local children dress up as angels for the Nativity scene at the Carriage House Inn during the annual An Evening of Christmas Spirit.

Everyone enjoys the musical entertainment in Joanne’s Ballroom at the Carriage House Inn during An Evening of Christmas Spirit.

Mayor Don Briggs

During the month of December, Emmitsburg lost an outstanding member of the community when Bob Hance of the Carriage House Inn passed away. The Hance family has hosted the Annual Evening of Christmas Spirit in Emmitsburg the first Monday evening in December for the past twenty-eight years.

Mayor Briggs wrote the following letter to his friend, Bob, after attending the Evening of Christmas Spirit on December 5, 2016.


Robert “Reds” Francis Hance (March 19, 1961–November 23, 2016)

Dear Bob,

For Emmitsburg this was another special Christmas. To tradition on the ordained first Monday evening in December, the square was aglitter and again poised for the lighting of the town tree.  Under a canopy of uncertain skies, collars up to meet the crisp night air, our focus gathered on the stairs of the old hotel for the cherubim-like voices of the children’s chorales of Christ Community Church and Mother Seton School. Signaled by a visit by Santa arriving on a 1940s Vigilant Hose fire truck, three of our wisest, drawn from our youth, Jacob, Joshua, and Jeremy Talcott, then lit the tree before leaving for the Carriage House Inn for the 28th Annual Evening of Christmas Spirit. There, seemingly endless lines to see Santa, go on a hay ride, or for hot dogs and hot chocolate waited excitedly. On the second floor, all enjoyed comfort and local group entertainment. Your dream, your gift to the community.

Since taking office, our schedules seldom meshed, but a beep or a wave was enough for those many years of working together. Whether it was for the Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association (EBPA), working to support FEMA/Fire Services, or supporting your great love—the Emmitsburg Lions Club, there was always joy and laughter when working with you. 

With time, Lib and I came to eat out less and missed the comforts of the Carriage House Inn, so instead made it a practice of ordering carryouts, as the Carriage House food quality was special.

Thank you for the tireless energy and humble persistent nudge you brought to serving the community. Always there, always willing. You will be missed.

We’ll do our best to keep things going.