From the Gardner News.
Story by Doneen Durling
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WINCHENDON — Christmas in Toy Town was beautiful in its simplicity Saturday. The cold night had turned puddles in the park into mini skating spots, and the small snow mounds were perfect for climbing as the children waited for the tree-lighting ceremony to begin.
Santa Claus stood on the corner of Route 12 and Pleasant Street waving to cars as they passed before the sun went down. Horns beeped and people waved back and smiled.
Murdock cheerleaders helped the little children hang ornaments on the tree in American Legion Park. The ornaments were created during the after-school program at Toy Town Elementary, and were made from pine cones and paper rolls covered in seed to feed the birds.
When the sun set, Parks and Recreation Chairman Tina Santos said, “Welcome to the annual Blue Devil tree-lighting ceremony.”
Santos gave a countdown, and the tree was lit blue to represent Murdock colors. The cheerleaders led the crowd in singing the Murdock Song, and even the older members in the assembly around the tree remembered the words.
From American Legion Park, the celebration continued on to GAR Park by way of a hay ride. Andy Brooks donated two tractors and hay wagons filled with bales of hay, and he and Rocky Flint lifted up the children onto the wagon and drove the tractors carrying carolers to the gazebo in GAR Park. Occupants of the hayride sang and laughed all the way.
Brooks can’t remember how many years he has participated in the tree-lighting ceremony, but the ride is a tradition everyone seems to enjoy and looks forward to as the highlight of the celebration.
There was cocoa set up at GAR Park, and Santa was there so parents and grandparents could snap photos.
Then there was a countdown for the lighting of the tree planted last year at GAR Park.
The children brought different ornaments made at the after-school program made from string and glue. The center glowed with lights.
Jennifer Haddad, director of the after-school program, explained that students from The Winchendon School helped the children at Toy Town create the ornaments.
“They have been so good with us,” she said.
Miranda Jennings, who works with community student outreach for service learning at The Winchendon School, pointed out that each round globe included a candle and that each candle had written on it something for which the maker was thankful.
Jennings sad that students from The Winchendon School spend time all year with students in the after-school program to tutor and help them with projects.
There were Christmas carols led by the cheerleaders, and many stayed in the cold until all the ornaments were hung.
Santos said she was surprised so many turned out on such a cold day.
“Because of the cold weather, I didn’t think we were going to have that many people,” she said.
Santos was prepared for the cold and dressed in colored lights and reindeer antlers for the fun.
“We had a great turnout. The Murdock Blue tree had an excellent turnout, too,” she said.
Santos said she has been on the Parks and Recreation Commission for three years, and Andy Brooks has always stepped up to offer hay rides.
“He and his wife and friends have been really wonderful,” said Santos.
The Girl Scouts also helped with goody bags and Santa.
“It was a great community effort,” Santos said.