PUNXSUTAWNEY — If your family is looking to begin a Christmas tradition, a good starting point would be with the Home for the Holidays parade followed by the Punxsutawney Rotary Club's traditional lighting of the Circle of Trees in Barclay Square tonight.
2006 was the first year that the Rotary Club constructed the large artificial tree on the bandstand in Barclay Square, said Tom Chelgren, of the Punxsutawney Rotary Club.
They had such a great success with the large tree that the Rotary wanted to expand it to make Punxsutawney more attractive during the
Christmas season, he said.
Chelgren said the Rotary Club members really enjoy giving something back to the community through the Circle of Trees.
The Rotary Radio Auction, Multi-Phasic Blood Testing and the Circle of Trees are the Rotary's main events throughout the year and are all enjoyable in their own way, he said.
“The Circle of Trees brings so much back to the community," Chelgren said. "Our theory is, kids that are growing up today 20, 30, 40 or 50 years from now will look back and will remember going to the park (and think), ‘Wasn't it really an awesome sight to see all the Christmas trees decorated? It's a part of growing up in Punxsy.'"
Chelgren said that every year, there are certain non-profit groups that drop out of the tree decorating, and there's a waiting list of groups that are looking to join the Circle of Trees.
There are four new organizations this year which include: Central Fire Department, Boy Scouts, AmeriCorp and PAHS eighth-and ninth-grade Art Club.
For non-profit groups unable to participate this year, Rotary Club members will record their names for any future openings, Chelgren said.
"That's what is nice about the program; people get a lot out of it as far their own community service," Chelgren said, adding that this year's theme is an "American Christmas."
“Basically, the groups have been tasked to give us their perception of what makes Christmas in America such a special time of year,” he said.
Each group was tasked with a specific thought about the tree topper.
All 19 trees are going to have a tribute to the Sept. 11, 2001 volunteers, Chelgren said, adding that all 19 groups promote community service.
"When you think about what happened on 9/11, it's interesting how America came together and how the spirit of volunteerism really built more tradition for America,"he said.
"Some people have said 9/11 is not something you think of at Christmas — that's not necessarily so when you think about all of the things that are good about our society, and how Christmas is a time to remember what we do to bring ourselves back together as families."
This is a fabulous tribute to anyone, no matter where they are located, brought about a wonderful spirit, he said.
"Isn't that what Christmas is all about, the spirit of what we are doing for each other and the sharing and caring that we have for each other?" Chelgren said, adding that PAHS student Jake Smith chose tree decorating as his senior project.
Jake said he chose the Circle of Trees as his senior project because his father, Brian Smith, was president of the Rotary last year and suggested the project to him.
"I always have liked how it makes Barclay Square look like a focal point for the holiday season," Jake said, adding that he had to contact the sponsors and all of the groups that decorated the trees.
Jake said he helped to set up the large tree on the bandstand and all of the smaller trees.
Chelgren said that Jake went above and beyond what was required for his project and made it a pleasure to work on the Circle of Trees project this year.
The tree lighting will take place today in Barclay Square following the parade.