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With a shout of “Merry Christmas” and the throwing of his “Christmas Spirit Dust,” Santa Claus lit up the trees on Carlisle’s Square to usher in the holiday season downtown.

The tree lighting was part of an evening of festivities that started with the F&M Trust Carlisle Christmas parade, which had the theme of “Light Up the Night.”

This year, the parade lined up for the first time at the parking lot of Carlisle Fire and Rescue, which gave Tracie Martin and the crew from UPMC Pinnacle plenty of room to prepare by putting on snowman costumes, affixing their lights and testing out the snow cannon.

“Being a part of a bigger health system, it was nice because we were able to go all out and do something really fun for the community,” Martin said.

The float itself was an oversized Radio Flyer wagon in which staff and their families could ride. Some also walked alongside the float with their own decked-out, lit wagons.

“The hospital is very engaged in the community and we really just wanted something lighthearted. We want everyone to have a healthy, fun holiday,” Martin said.

Further down along North Hanover Street, Jason Sweeley of Mechanicsburg waited along the curb with his son and daughter, all of them wearing light-up Christmas bulb necklaces in keeping with the theme of the evening. The kids were clearly excited about the festivities, even if there was at least one part they could do without.

“He doesn’t want to see the Grinch. The Grinch was here last year, and he doesn’t want to see the Grinch,” Sweeley said.

That may have turned out well for the youngster. The parade featured a number of fire trucks, both antiques and those currently in service, as well as classic cars and Corvettes all lit up for the festivities.

Kenn Tuckey, one of the sponsors of the parade, brought his 1956 Studebaker truck. The restored truck only runs in parades and Summerfair events, but Tuckey said you can always count on it starting.

“It was one of our original trucks,” he said.

Tuckey employees walked alongside the truck dressed as Christmas ornaments, trees with lights and as Christmas light bulbs, said Jessica Kastriba, who organized Tuckey’s entry in the parade.

Floats from area organizations ranged from Resonate Community Church’s Island of Misfit Toys to a skating dinosaur from Cumberland Goodwill EMS with a few takes on Disney’s “Frozen” and various winter scenes in between.

Brad Wenger of Wenger’s Meats and Ice looked no further than his own storeroom for the centerpiece of his company’s float based on “Frozen.” The movie’s reindeer character, carved from a block of ice, pulled an antique sleigh that’s been in Wenger’s family.

“It’s our ice, and I have a carver that carved it for me,” Wenger said.

Santa passed through the Square near the end of the parade, but had to finish the parade route down to South Street before turning around to come back for the rest of the festivities.

While the crowd waited for Santa’s return to the Square, Matt Robinson, a baritone opera singer, prepared to lead the evening’s caroling. He said he was ready with a mix of both secular and sacred music with which those in attendance would be familiar.

Robinson, who was born and raised in Boiling Springs, said the Carlisle area is where he developed as a musician and he was looking forward to the caroling that would be accompanied by the U.S. Army Field Band’s Brass Chamber Quartet.

“Giving back to my community in this way is fantastic. I’m honored to do it,” he said.

Santa soon arrived back at the Square, where Mayor Tim Scott presented Santa and Mrs. Claus with a key to the borough.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m incredibly grateful,” Santa said. “Being Santa Claus, I’m usually on the giving side ... and it just makes me happy to receive a gift.”

The Jolly Old Elf then roused up the Christmas spirit, starting first with leading the crowd in shouting out “Ho! Ho! Ho!” followed by chants of “We love Christmas!” before he started the countdown to the lighting of the tree.

With the trees lit, the carol singing and visiting with Santa began on the Square. The showing of the movie “Jingle All The Way” was set to start soon thereafter.

The downtown celebration continues Saturday with Donuts with Santa at 9 a.m. at Bosler Memorial Library.

The Cumberland County Historical Society will host a holiday family program that starts at the G.B. Stuart History Workshop, 29 W. High St., and Storytelling with Mrs. Claus will be held at 1 p.m. at Whistlestop Bookshop, 129 W. High St.

The day ends with the annual showing of “White Christmas” at Carlisle Theatre at 7 p.m.

Also on Saturday, the Market of Curiosities opens its doors from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Carlisle Expo Center. Admission to the show is $5 for adults, $3 for senior citizens and free for children under 12 years old.

The Carlisle Barracks Christkindlesmarkt will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center. The holiday crafts bazaar is open to the public with free admission and parking.

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Email Tammie at tgitt@cumberlink.com. Follow her on Twitter @TammieGitt.

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Carlisle Reporter

Carlisle Reporter for The Sentinel.