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Light Up Night kicks off holiday season

Residents turn out for annual Alton ceremony

by Cathy Allyn
Contributing Writer - The Baysider

COLIN QUINN, 3, shows off the decoration he made at Town Hall during Alton's Light Up Night to hang on his tree at home. The youngster was eager to share that there is a train around the family Christmas tree. Holiday crafts were just one of the activities at venues scattered around town. Cathy Allyn. (click for larger version)
December 07, 2016
ALTON — Light Up Night went without a hitch on Saturday evening.

"Merry Christmas" shouted Carolyn Schaeffner after the crowd joined her in a rousing rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," and the tree in Ginny Douglas Park burst into lights.

"We've been coming to Light Up Night since my kids were little," one woman said, "and they are in their 30s now."

She is not alone; many people indicated they viewed it as a tradition and came each year if they could.

"Everyone says thank you for doing it," said Recreation Director Kellie Troendle, who noted all of the volunteers who work hard to make the evening a success.

"It's festive, and about the community coming together in the spirit of the season."

She said many people buy their trees in the morning, and cap off an exciting day by coming to the event. "It's a very New England thing to do. It's also a way for parents to get a picture of their kids with Santa locally."

It's too bad eavesdropping is frowned upon, because some of the best conversations of the season were to be found in Town Hall in the room where Santa's lap was a gateway to confidentiality.

Questioned about being good and helpful, one child guessed she "might" have to clean her room.

Santa was quick to suggest that she do that every week, and that she should think of her helpfulness as a gift to share "that will last forever."

Once the room cleaning issue was taken care of, Old St. Nick's visitor rattled off an impressive number of items she would like to discover under the tree.

"Well," the red clad gentlemen exclaimed, "you had quite a list and you were ready."

He promised her that he would review all of the letters sent to him at the North Pole when he returned home that night.

Santa's elf accompanied him to Alton, and reported there was no real trend in toy requests this year. "They've been all over the place, including a metal detector."

As usual, most children felt honesty was the best policy. "I have not been good all year," stated one, "but at least I'm honest."

No doubt everyone agrees that Santa has the best job in the world.

"It's great working with Santa," said his elf. "He has a big heart, and loves working with kids and it shows."

"It was a privilege for the Alton Fire Department to bring Santa Claus to Town Hall," said advanced cardiac EMT Elaine Kirouac. "The department got to be part of the town and it makes us accessible."

The arts are beginning to take center stage in Alton. The Alton Dance Academy's holiday show has always been a hot ticket and this year's adaptation of "The Polar Express" in four performances was no exception.

"I love that story," said an audience member. "It's a great show and it's wonderful to see local talent and budding performers."

He remarked that most of the kids "were reindeer," and his wife deemed them "cute."

"It's good exposure for the dancers," he said of the shows. "There were only smiles there."

A new component of family entertainment was a concert by the Select Chorus of Prospect Mountain High School, held at the Gilman Museum following the tree lighting.

Troendle said Director Wesley Raines contacted her about being a part of Light Up Night. "He wanted the community to see what the high school is doing," she said.

The town turned out in force. "We didn't expect standing room only," Raines said to the packed house. "We're delighted to be here to bring our music to you."

The 23 a cappella singers, decked out in black tie attire, were not only visually striking but proved to be an excellent blend of voices, with sure-fire articulation and impressive vocal control.

Raines took obvious pride in his young choir. The half-hour program, "An Evening in Song," featured 10 songs of the season, leading off with Silent Night and finishing with a piece in Latin that translates to "If the voice be, sing forth. Where there is music, there is love."

In between, the audience was treated to an Alfred Burt piece, an Irish folk tune, two English carols, a spiritual, some doo-wop, and a pop number.

At the concert's conclusion, Raines said, "It's been a special night for us and we hope to keep doing this kind of thing."

The program will be presented tomorrow evening at 7 p.m. at the Congregational Church of North Barnstead.

Lots of smiles hitched along on the hayrides, sponsored by Alton Home and Lumber. Lines were long, but the wait was short and attendants packed the bundled up travelers easily onto the bales of hay.

The only requirement for passage through the frosty streets was "to sing carols."

One family, prepared with a blanket tucked around the little ones, was belting out "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

A four-year old boy, riding for the first time, acknowledged he "had fun and sang." He also received a candy cane for taking part.

Candy canes were ubiquitous. No matter your age, you could get them at several venues. Crowds were also taking advantage of the hot cocoa provided by the Alton Business Association in front of Town Hall.

Bill and Diane Lang were in charge of hot cocoa at the open house at the Community Church of Alton, powered by a "secret ingredient," which smelled suspiciously like cinnamon. For a finishing touch, a bowl of marshmallows sat amid a sea of cookies, baked by church volunteers.

Jody Horne looked over the decorated tables and said the church took part for the community.

"And we get to see others," Lucy Sisoian said.

Gail Kleeberg added, "For holiday spirit."

The open house had a sizeable turnout. "There have been lots of kids," Barbara Hargraves said. "Some of the little ones were absolutely adorable with their red noses and antlers."

She thought about the evening's events and stated, "It's the spirit of giving."

Varney Smith
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