Merry and Bright: Holiday Tree Lighting features caroling, cookies and Santa

Cover Story

Garrison Commander Colonel Tom Rickard officially lit the Christmas tree Friday night outside of the historic Main Post Chapel. (Photos by Nicole Munchel)

After a 10-second countdown, the large tree outside the historic Main Post Chapel lit up the night with red, blue and green lights that was met with cheering and applause from onlookers.

“I was hoping we get a little bit of snow, maybe, coming down when we light the light,” Garrison Family Life Chaplin Maj. Dwayne Hughes said before he gave the invocation.

Six-year-old Emily Hunsaker (center) of Meuse Forest sings carols with her friends in Girl Scout Troop 1016, Nicole Drew (right), 9, and Nicole’s sister Alyssa, 7, during the tree lighting.

Despite frigid temperatures, about 100 people attended the garrison’s annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday evening. The free ceremony, hosted by the Religious Support Office, featured caroling, refreshments and a visit from a fire truck-riding Santa Claus.

The hourlong ceremony began with a warm welcome from Garrison Senior Command Chaplain (Col.) Terry Whiteside, accompanied by two Christmas carols performed by the U.S. Army Field Band’s Brass Quintet. The crowd joined in as they played “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night, Holy Night.”

Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops sang two Christmas carols: “Deck the Halls” and “The First Noel.”

After the countdown, 4-year-old Liam Allardice of Potomac Place — alongside Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard — flipped the switch to light the tree. Hughes then wished all good things for Fort Meade’s children.

“We pray that you help these kids, our children, to have wonderful memories here at Fort Meade, as they grow up in a place as wonderful as this,” he said.

Liam Allardice, 4, gets a lift from his dad, Air Force Staff Sgt. Guillaume Allardice, as he flips the switch to light the tree alongside Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard.

Shortly after the the lighting, fire engine sirens rang out as the engine guided Santa Claus to the children awaiting his arrival.

The little ones screamed for joy while others yelled out “Santa” as Old Saint Nicholas waived from the fire engine.

Santa eventually made his way off the fire engine and into a seat under the tree where he asked children what they wanted for Christmas and posed for pictures as they sat on his lap.

Three siblings

Kennadee Elliott (right) and her 6-year-old twin brother Edward Elliott III, children of Command Sgt. Maj. Edward Elliott Jr. of Headquarters Command Battalion, pose for a photo with Santa during the hourlong event.

from Millersville faced Santa together:

Shaylee Olson, 5, who was a bit nervous to see Santa, still managed to pitch her request for Christmas.

“I asked Santa for a purse,” Shaylee said.

Her 10-year-old sister Shareen requested an even bigger item.

“I asked Santa for Friendship Legos,” she said with a smile.

Big brother Sterling, who is 12, asked for the guy version — Minecraft Legos. But just like his sister, Sterling was excited when Santa arrived.

“We saw him when he first pulled up on the truck,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”


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