The Die Liedersanger Madrigal Singers are a staple for the historic Waverly Mansion tours, provide seasonal music for tourists. This year, the group will perform Sunday afternoon, Dec. 4 and the candlelight tour Monday Night, Dec. 5. (Submitted photo / November 16, 2011)

A very happy Thanksgiving to all! May the day be one to count blessings and not calories, to reconnect with family and friends and to enjoy the activities of the season.

Of course, the passage of Thanksgiving means that the traditional holiday tours of Waverly Mansion are set for Dec. 4 and 5. Although we mainly recognize the mansion as a landmark near the Waverly Woods Village Center (the official address is 2300 Waverly Mansion Drive, in Marriottsville), this historic home dates back to 1756 when Nathan Dorsey began building it upon a tract of land known as "Ranter's Ridge."

In 1786, Col. John Eager Howard — our county's namesake and the fifth governor of Maryland — purchased the mansion for his son, George, who became the 25th governor. George and his wife, Prudence, ultimately named the mansion Waverly after Sir Walter Scott's first novel, in 1814.

Every December, the Garden Clubs of Howard County give the Waverly Mansion a holiday facelift. Each club decorates one room in natural holiday finery and then mans a table selling handmade crafts, decorations, wreaths and greenery to help visitors deck their own halls in a like manner. Proceeds from the sales will support the clubs' local projects, such as scholarships, community beautification, garden therapy for seniors, junior garden clubs for children, and more.


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The tours are self-guided, and docents will be available in each room to answer questions. Hours are Sunday, Dec. 4, 1-4 p.m.; and Monday, Dec. 5, 10 a.m.-noon with a candlelight tour from 6:30 to 9 p.m. As always, Die Liedersanger Madrigal Singers will provide seasonal music on Sunday afternoon and Monday evening.

Entry costs $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children ages 12 and younger. Admission also includes cider and homemade cookies and will go toward maintaining the paintings of Waverly Mansion.

For more information, call Lisa Capps at 410-489-4048 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The Town of Sykesville is welcoming the holiday season with a Merry Main Street celebration, scheduled for Dec. 3. Indoor events, including the festive holiday music of String Echoes, will run from 2-5 p.m. at the Sykesville Town House, 7547 Main Street. Children can enjoy a variety of fun activities, like making reindeer cupcakes, taking photos with the Grinch and writing letters to Santa, while grownups can take advantage of the free gift wrapping service for their Main Street purchases. (Shops will remain open until 9 p.m.) All events at the Town House are free, but donations are welcome.

Main Street itself will be a shopping extravaganza, with music, refreshments, and model train displays. An ice sculpting demonstration will take place at 4 p.m., and carolers will begin singing their joyful music at 4:30. Hold on, though, there's still more: Santa, the big guy himself, is scheduled to arrive by fire engine at 6 p.m. and will take photos with the kids from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Pullman Car. When he leaves, he will take the children's letters with him back to the North Pole. The event promises holiday fun for the whole family.

The Sykesville Main Street Organization will also be holding a business holiday decorating contest Nov. 25-Dec. 14 when the winners (viewers' choice and judges' choice) will be announced. Viewers can complete a ballot in any Main Street Organization member shop – one ballot per person – and the names will be entered into a drawing to receive a gift basket of Main Street merchandise.

Questions? Call Main Street Manager Ivy Wells at 410-795-8959, email ivy@sykesville.net, or go to http://www.sykesville.net or http://www.facebook.com/sykesville.

Amy Syversen, the band teacher at West Friendship Elementary School, would like to recognize her November Band Musicians of the Month: McKenna Boyce (clarinet), Jessica Hinkle (percussion), Clare Hinds (clarinet), Paige Hockensmith (clarinet), Isabella Hwang (clarinet), Allison Polinsky (trumpet) and Caroline Underwood (trumpet). These students have worked hard to learn their instruments and have demonstrated great attitudes.

Additionally, several West Friendship Elementary band students have mastered one or more musical scales to become "Scale Stars." Congratulations to Erin Ko (oboe) – chromatic, C Major, F Major, B Flat Major, E Flat Major, A Flat Major, G Major, D Major, and A Major scales; Sidney Parkent (bells) – chromatic, C major, F Major, B Flat Major, E Flat Major, A Flat Major, and G Major scales; Emily Morton (flute) – C Major (two octaves), F Major, B Flat Major, E Flat Major (two octaves), A Flat Major, and G Major scales; Jacob Coomber (alto saxophone) – G Major scale; and Tyler Brandt (tenor saxophone), Austin Cestone (trumpet), Su Min Kim (trombone), Allison Pollinsky (trumpet), and Caroline Underwood (trumpet) – C Major scale.

Look for this list to continue growing throughout the year as the students master more scales.

Happy anniversary to Neighbor Ride! This volunteer-based nonprofit organization began providing transportation to Howard County seniors on November 17, 2004 and has now totaled more than 46,000 trips. As the county's senior population has grown, so too has the need for transportation services. In fact, monthly trips during October and November topped 1,200! Neighbor Ride urgently needs new volunteer drivers to help meet the burgeoning demand.

Drivers can choose rides that are convenient to their routines and locations, and no set schedule is required. Parents may also bring their children along for a rewarding intergenerational experience. If you would like more information about this very flexible and worthwhile opportunity, call 410-884-RIDE (7433), email volunteer@neighborride.org, or go to http://www.neighborride.org.

Have you ever noticed what an active presence Master Gardeners have in our county? The Maryland Master Gardener initiative began in 1978 as a way to educate state residents about healthier, safer, and more eco-friendly approaches to horticulture, and the Howard County group has done a terrific job sharing its free services with the community.

Master Gardeners receive training from University of Maryland professionals and then voluntarily educate the general public through activities like gardening demonstrations and classes, plant clinics, community beautification efforts, and information booths at fairs and festivals.

If you love gardening and would like to help educate others, consider applying for the 2012 Master Gardener training. Classes will meet at the Howard County Extension Office, 3300 North Ridge Road, Suite 240, Ellicott City, beginning with an orientation Jan. 23 from 10 a.m. to noon and continuing every Monday and Wednesday Jan. 25-March 28 from 9 a.m. to noon. The cost is $195.

Call 410-313-2707 for a registration packet. The registration deadline is Dec. 16 and class size is limited.