McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

October 20, 2013

Christmas on the Hill plans moving forward

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — The community of McAlester will have a Christmas tree of its very own this holiday season.

Not only that, but a children’s Teddy bear parade, choral singing, walking tours and other activities are set before the lighting of the tree ceremony on the grounds of the Puterbaugh Memorial Center at 345 E. Adams Ave.

While mid-October might seem early to some to begin planning for Christmas, a group of local residents have been planning three months in advance for the lighting of McAlester’s Christmas tree.

They’re calling the event Christmas on the Hill.

They’ve been working so long on planning the ceremony and related events because they want to make sure it’s done right, said Dr. Bert Thomas, of the Puterbaugh Center, who is working with the city of McAlester, local volunteers and others to spearhead the event.

It’s set for Nov. 30, with the day’s and evening’s events to culminate with the lighting of the community Christmas tree, a pine tree on the grounds of the Puterbuagh Center.

Plans are still being finalized for events leading up to the parade and the lighting of the tree, with a walking tour, likely to include stops at churches in the area, also part of the evening’s events.

“I think we’re on the right track,” Thomas said. “It’s a wonderful example of bringing the right people together in the right spirit, with tremendous results.”

While the volunteers and planners who meet periodically at the Puterbaugh Center continue to fine-tune related activities, time lines have been narrowed leading up to the main event.

Although some events will likely begin earlier, the walking tour portion of the program is expected to be in full swing by 6 p.m. on the evening of Nov. 30.

Groups and choirs from area churches are expected to gather on street corners along Adams Avenue, beginning at Second Street and heading east.

At 7 p.m., the McAlester Fire Department is set to sound a siren, a signal for the children to begin gathering for the Teddy bear parade. Current plans call for them to gather in the graveled parking lot on the west side of the S. Arch Thompson Auditorium.

The Teddy bear parade, envisioned as a parade of the community’s children who will be carrying Teddy bears and other stuffed animals, or pulling them in wagons, will begin soon thereafter.

Plans call for the children in the parade to head east along Adams Avenue, toward the Puterbaugh Center, where they’re estimated to arrive by around 7:40 p.m.

Following the singing of some carols, the tree is set to be lit by an individual whose name has not yet been announced, but is said to have had a long history of service to McAlester.

Meanwhile, planning continues to hopefully make the event a Christmas ceremony to remember, including an effort to keep commercialism out of it.

“It’s for all the right reasons,” Thomas said.

Additional plans and times will be posted in future editions of the News-Capital as they are finalized.

Those planning the project are working well together, Thomas said.

“The people are cooperating and they’re doing it with enthusiasm,” he said.

“They’re really coming together; you can see it in their eyes.”

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.