Tuesday evening Ardmore Mayor Sheryl Ellis proclaimed the official opening of the 2018 Christmas Season in the city. The proclamation was immediately followed by the lighting of the Christmas tree in Central Park.
While the tree lighting took place at dusk, the park was busy all day with the annual Christmas Market.
“We ended up with 33 merchants this year,” Ardmore Parks and Recreation Director Teresa Ervin said. Most merchants and booths were present for the opening of the event at 11 a.m., but several student-led organizations joined in the festivities once the school day was completed. One group that fell into this category was the LG Force Softball team that was holding a bake sale to raise money for new uniforms.
In addition to the various goodies and gift items for sale, other organizations had booths where they were giving things away. The Ardmore Public Library was present all day handing out books for children, and Heroes with Hope was passing out winter coats for children in need.
“This is the first time we’ve given away coats at this event, but we’ve always given out coats,” Heroes with Hope Executive Director Melissa Woolly said. “We thought this would be the perfect opportunity to set up a booth to make them readily available for people.” Overall they ended up giving out 75 coats over the course of the afternoon.
Tes Stewart, recreation director for Ardmore Parks and Recreation, said the entire day was a big success.
“It’s been great,” Stewart said. “It’s been a steady flow of people and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.”
As the time for the tree lighting and parade grew closer and the park filled with more people, groups from local schools and churches took to the stage to entertain the growing crowd.
Ervin said that while the Christmas Market is a relatively new event, the city has been holding a tree lighting ceremony for over thirty years. Originally the city brought in a live tree, but Ervin said they switched to an artificial tree around the year 2000. In recent years, the artificial tree has been replaced with a computerized marvel that synchronizes a light show and holiday music.
In keeping with this year’s theme of Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, the first song played was “Frosty the Snowman.”
Ervin said that while the event has grown considerably in size and scope over the course of more than three decades, Parks and Recreation could not bring it all together without the help of numerous individuals and agencies.
“Our contractor, who does our lights and the tree, works hard to make sure it goes off without a hitch,” Ervin said. “Our street department helps us by setting the barriers for us. The police department helps us with the street closures, and of course the parks department works with the vendors and all of the entertainment. So it really is a joint effort.