Holiday season kicks off with traditional illumination
By Katie V. Jones
Despite a rainy morning and mild temperatures, snow was falling around the armory in Laurel on Dec. 3 Saturday evening to the delight of children and adults. No matter that it was made from machines, the snow was the perfect addition to the city’s beloved holiday parade and armory illumination celebrations.
Featuring a parade, Santa, holiday crafts and the traditional lighting of the armory, the event returned in all its glory after two years of scaled-back celebrations because of the pandemic.
“We’re glad to be back together again,” said Mayor Craig Moe. “People are happy to be together. They feel safe and feel comfortable.”
By mid-afternoon, tailgaters packed the lot at Laurel Elementary School, while others lined the parade route to watch Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive. Led by carolers, Girl Scouts, Laurel High School cheerleaders, Laurel City Councilmembers and more, the parade drew cheers from the crowd as marchers threw candy and waved.
Festivities continued inside the armory, where there was a variety of activities, from multiple craft stations to throwing rings on a reindeer’s antlers. Costumed characters, including Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, strolled through the gathering while Santa and Mrs. Claus posed for photos on the lower level.
‘Our parks and recreation [staff] do a great job,” Moe said. “They are very creative.”
A tradition in Laurel for more than 20 years, the event has been held “in snow, rain and cold, cold weather,” according to Bill Bailey, director of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation. The illumination event was streamed live in 2020 without an audience and in 2021 with a small crowd but no inside activities, Bailey said.
“It goes on no matter what,” he noted, with a touch of pride.
The day kicked off with the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Breakfast with Santa. Councilmember James Kole (Ward 1), who attended the breakfast, was decked out in Christmas lights and a Santa hat.
“It’s been a busy day,” Kole said, as he strolled around the armory. “I’ve never been to the inside activities. I was told we would be packed. It’s awesome.”
It was also the first time Jennifer and Diego Svarez attended the event. Their daughter Izzy, 5, marched with her Daisy Scout troop in the parade.
“I didn’t know this happened, and I’ve been here forever,” Jennifer said. “She’s had a blast.”’
June Gray, 3, got to see Santa and snow for the first time according to her mother, Andrea Smith-Gray. The family moved to Laurel from Phoenix, Arizona, just a few weeks ago.
“She went up to him and said ‘Hi,’” said Smith-Gray, laughing, as she watched June run around a tree the holiday tree outside. “This is cool. You get to meet neighbors.”
Rosa Maher, a member of Laurel Volunteer Fire Department, and Christina Cornwell, the city’s emergency manager, were handing out free hot cocoa.
“I got married in this building in 1968 when it was still an Armory,” said Maher, who has lived in Laurel her entire life and enjoys volunteering at the city’s many events. “The community comes out to see the lights. There is camaraderie between all the neighbors.”
Watching the snow fall, Councilmember Carl DeWalt (Ward 1) was all smiles.
“This is very nice,” DeWalt said. “It is a good way to start … [the holiday season] off.”