College cultivates tradition with tree lighting

Dec. 07, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Music by Southern Lee High School’s Marching Band, a visit by Santa Claus, and lighting of an18-foot Christmas tree all added to the festivities Thursday as Central Carolina Community College hosted its Second Annual Christmas Tree Lighting celebration for the community.

The marching band, under music director Alexander Alberti and led by head drum major Lauren Simmonds, escorted Santa onto the college’s Lee County Campus plaza, much to the delight of the children of all ages who came to welcome him.

While the band entertained, Santa took his special seat in the college’s Welcome Center, which had been transformed with holiday decorations. There, the jolly old elf delighted the little ones and brought smiles to their families’ faces by having his picture taken with them. Charlie Cougar, the college mascot, was also on hand, having his picture snapped by many of the visitors.

“This is a really good event, a nice one for family members to come to,” said Vilma Diaz of Sanford. “Dulce, my 8-year-old, is so excited.”

On the plaza, children gathered around Julian Philpott, chair of the college’s board of trustees, listening eagerly as he read Clement Moore’s holiday classic, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Then, the children and their families counted down to the moment when Philpott threw the switch and the Christmas tree, bedecked with blue ribbons, suddenly glowed with myriad tiny white lights.

“We came to see the tree lighting,” said Samantha Taylor of Sanford, accompanied by her family. “This is my granddaughter Journey Taylor’s first Christmas.”

Her son, Jonathan Taylor, added, “The Christmas Tree Lighting for the community really shows the family orientation of the college.”

The crowd filled the college’s plaza, enjoying hot chocolate prepared by CCCC Hospitality and Culinary Arts Department Chair Chef Gregg Hamm’s Café 121 and cookies made by student inmates in the college’s baking program at the Harnett Correctional Institution.

“I loved this event,” said Charlie Gardner, a fifth-grader at Greenwood Elementary. “I liked having my photo taken with Santa, and the band music was fun.”

The event also included a canned or dry food collection, with donations going to Christians United Outreach Center.

The Christmas Tree Lighting was planned and coordinated by the CCCC Foundation and college volunteers, with the Student Government Association providing the tree.

“This is a great way for the college to start the season,” said CCCC President Bud Marchant. “This is fast becoming a college tradition.”

Those who had pictures taken with Santa can view and download them at the college’s website,