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Downtown Havre de Grace becomes winter wonderland

The holiday spirit was alive Friday evening in downtown Havre de Grace for the city's annual parade and Christmas tree lighting.

People gathered along Washington Street, bundled up in coats, scarves and hats to watch friends and neighbors march in the parade and listen to Christmas carols. Trees on the sidewalk were strung with blue glittering lights and lit up the festive street.

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Girl Scout troops sang as they marched down the street and people from Restore Church passed out red balloons and candy to children. The Salvation Army truck also threw out candy from inside the vehicle.

The Havre de Grace Drama Guild ushered in fire engines that blared their horns as the crowd cheered. Soon, members of the Havre de Grace High School marching band, all wearing Santa hats, made their way onto the street playing "Winter Wonderland" as people clapped and cheered.

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Havre de Grace resident Beth Bradley watched her friend's baby daughter while she marched in the parade. It was her second year attending, thought she's been to the city's Fourth of July parade, and thought even more people came out this holiday season.

Bradley said she "loves" the Christmas season and "just being with my family" during the holidays.

Others in the Christmas spirit filmed the parade with video cameras and even their phones, including Myong Park, of Aberdeen.

Park came Friday with her friends and fiance, whose niece marched with the Girl Scouts. It was her third or fourth year coming to the parade.

"It's just, you feel good," she said about this time of year. Park went on to say that she loves to look at the Christmas lights. "It [lifts] your spirit."

Farther down Washington Street at Rochambeau Plaza, the crowd was dense with people waiting to see the city's Christmas tree be lit. Santa Claus mingled with everyone and said hello to the children who looked on in amazement.

Chris Groom, of Havre de Grace, was there with his wife and daughter, Hannah, who marched in the parade with the drama guild.

It was Groom's first year at the parade. He explained that his wedding anniversary fell on Dec. 7 and they had a tradition to visit Disney World every year for the occasion. This year, however, the couple went to the Happiest Place on Earth around Halloween and were able to come out that night.

"It was great, [seeing] a small town get together, " Groom said of his first parade experience. As for his favorite part of the holiday season: "I love making my girl happy," he said while pointing to his daughter. Hannah wasn't shy when she exclaimed, "The gifts!"

Finally, it was time to light the tree.

Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty greeted the crowd, "Merry Christmas to everybody!" Everyone cheered and wished him a merry Christmas, too.

Dougherty thanked those who decorated the streets for the event, including the city's public works department and executive director of the city's chamber of commerce, Cathy Vincenti. Santa chimed in and said, "Havre de Grace does it the right way."

With Santa, Mrs. Claus and everything in place, Dougherty asked everyone to count to three before the switch was thrown to light the tree.

"One, two, three!" everyone chanted and cheered as white lights appeared all over the evergreen tree. One man in the crowd commented, "It's just like Times Square."

As the crowd dispersed, people went to take a closer look at the tree.

White snowflakes and red and white ornaments decorated the fantastic tree. A big, red, lit bow sat at the top while oversized plastic candy canes lined the tree's base like a fence. A statue of Joseph and Mary holding a baby Jesus sat to one side of the tree.

Children holding their parents' hands pointed at the tree and "oohed" and "ahhed." With several more weeks remaining before Christmas, they'll have much more time to enjoy the beautiful symbol of the holidays.

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