Community enjoys first CCCC tree lighting, Santa visit
Children were wide-eyed in anticipation as Santa Claus visited Central Carolina Community College’s Lee County Campus Thursday evening.
College and community members and lots of children gathered for the college’s first Christmas Tree Lighting and Santa Visit as dusk fell, watching for him. Finally, music by members of the Southern Lee High School Marching Band, under director Matt Miller, heralded his arrival and the band escorted Santa onto the plaza at the campus.
With Santa on hand, the festivities got underway. The crowd counted down and the 18-foot Christmas tree, decorated with white lights and a blue bow, burst into light, greeted by happy exclamations from the children. Then they gathered around Julian Philpott, chair of the college’s board of trustees, as he read “T’was the Night Before Christmas.”
The highlight of the event for the youngsters was meeting Santa and having their pictures taken with him. They eagerly lined up to do so, with parents encouraging them to meet this special visitor from the North Pole.
Charlee Cougar, the college’s mascot, was on hand to add a lot of jollity to the occasion with his antics. Many children and families also had their pictures taken with him.
“I’m having a good time,” said young Alex Ascencion, of Sanford, who wasn’t too sure he wanted his picture taken with Charlee, but then was glad he did. “This is fun. Charlee looks scary, but he’s nice.”
The crowd filled the college’s plaza as the evening progressed, enjoying hot chocolate prepared by CCCC Chef Gregg Hamm’s Café 21 and cookies made by student inmates in the college’s program at the Harnett Correctional Institution. After their visit with Santa, each child received a wooden ornament created by HCI carpentry students to take home for their own tree.
“I brought my kids to see Santa,” said Lanee Benitez, of Sanford. “This is their first time this year. I think the college’s event was a great idea; I’m glad they did it.”
The event was planned and coordinated by the CCCC Foundation and a number of college volunteers. The Student Government Association provided the tree.
“We are very pleased with the turnout,” said CCCC President Bud Marchant. “It’s a wonderful event and I think we’ve got a new tradition.”
After the tree lighting/Santa visit, everyone was invited to the campus’ Classroom and Fitness Center gymnasium where the Cougars took on William Peace University. It was a enthusiastic school spirit ending to a great evening, with the Cougars winning, 65-57, the team’s first win over a four-year institution’s varsity team.