Tioga, Lycoming counties display their holiday spirit



cclarke@sungazette.com & mreuther@sungazette.com

Freshly fallen snow and a plenty of sunshine brightened the spirits of area residents who had their choices of four holiday community events Saturday.

Tioga held its annual Dickens of a Christmas festival, and Lycoming County featured holiday events in three communities – Montoursville, Loyalsock Township and Jersey Shore.

The snowy forecast in Tioga County overnight Friday provided just the right amount to add to the ambiance at the 30th annual Dickens of a Christmas festival in Wellsboro..

Though crowds were large, numbers were down a bit because of the weather forecast, said chamber of commerce director Julie VanNess.

“Some of our busses cancelled last night because of the forecast, which is understandable, but the vendors are busy and happy, and it has been a successful day,” she said.

The snow also added a little extra work to get the sidewalks and streets ready.

“We had to put salt down on the sidewalks but no shoveling was needed,” said Nicole Jesionowski, who works for the chamber.

“We come out early in the morning to help the vendors set up,” she said, adding that the light snow on the Christmas trees in the median made the trees look “so pretty.”

With sunny skies and temperatures hovering in the upper 20s and low 30s, the air was brisk but not frigid and there were plenty of places along the way to stop in for a minute and get warm.

All over town at various churches and other public buildings, there were open houses or indoor craft sales.

Inside the United Methodist Church the high school Dickens Choir stepped up and performed for the crowd led by music teacher and choral director Judy Smithgall.

The Wellsboro Riding Club provided pony rides for $5 a ride for children of all ages, and members of the New Heights Dance Theater performed scenes from “The Nutcracker Suite” in the window of the Deane Center.

Tucked in among the vendors selling everything from Christmas wreaths and greens to warm hats and gloves, as well as handcrafted anything else you might want, were the food vendors, and all you had to do to find what you were hungry for was follow your nose.

Pets were not forgotten either, as Animal Care Sanctuary’s booth was selling pet treats and knitted sweaters and blankets.

Shoppers were gobbling up the delicious apple turnovers made by the Mount Pleasant and Morris Blackwell United Methodist churches, where Sherri Butters and her husband Dave sold over 2,000 at $4 apiece.

Last year, Butters said they made about 1,700 but sold out quickly. So this year they made about 2,200.

According to their friend and helper, Judy Behney of York, they start making the dough the Tuesday night before the festival each year, and then bake all day Wednesday and up to noon on Thursday.

Before 11 a.m. Saturday they were two thirds gone, Butters said.

By lunchtime, those with hungry tummies were lining up for hot pork sandwiches, onion soup, chowder, bread pudding or even hot dogs with sauerkraut to fill the hole left by a busy morning of shopping while listening to the Salvation Army Band or the Cherry Flats Brass Band perform Christmas carols at either end of Main Street.

Lycoming County featured at least three big holiday events Saturday.

Jersey Shore’s festivities included an afternoon parade through borough and the arrival of Santa Claus.

People including plenty of children could be seen beforehand gathered at the community park.

In the meantime, the kids kept busy frolicking in the newly fallen snow and playing games.

Jersey Shore Town Meeting members were on hand for a Chinese Auction to raise money for new Christmas lights to place along the streets.

Kathy Hensler, Town Meeting treasurer, said her group has so far raised about $5,000 with a goal of reaching $50,000.

“Our lights are old,” she explained. “They were bought used.”

The hope is to have new lights in place for the 2014 holiday season.

Various individuals and groups in the community have donated to the fund.

“We are having people come out and decorate the tree,” Hensler said.

Jersey Shore School District elementary students made ornaments for the trees.

In Montoursville, people were dressed in period piece attire to celebrate the borough’s Old Tyme Christmas.

The Salvation Army’s Debbie Engel stood along Broad Street bundled up from the mid-afternoon chill and ringing a bell to raise money for the organization.

She noted that the event did not draw a big crowd of people, but everyone seemed to be in a festive mood just the same.

“People do seem to enjoy the trolley rides and the carriage rides,” she said.

Down the street, the barbershop chorus assembled in front of the Bethany Lutheran Church to sing.

Stacia Abernatha, of Silipads Jewelry, was among a number of vendors who showed up for the event.

She said most of the people who attended the event seemed to come in the morning.

With the words, “Okay, you can turn on the lights” from Loyalsock Township Supervisor Marc Sortman, the community’s annual lightup celebration at James E. Short Park got under way late Saturday afternoon.

Loyalsock School District students sang Christmas carols and children lined up to see Santa Claus at the gazebo.

“It’s a nice community event where everyone comes together,” said newly elected Loyalsock Township Supervisor Paul Nyman as he huddled near a small fire to keep warm from the December chill.

Hot chocolate and hot dogs were served to keep other warm and in the holiday spirit.

The township’s annual parade preceded the event.