By Greg Ellison
(Nov. 28, 2019) Elfin assistants at the North Pole have confirmed that Santa Claus will make an extended stopover on Saturday in Ocean Pines, starting at 5:30 p.m.
St. Nick will offer a community-wide greeting while cruising atop a firetruck and then attend a tree-lighting ceremony during the ninth annual “A Hometown Christmas,” celebration at 6:30 in White Horse Park.
This year, Ocean Pines Recreation and Parks has combined its efforts with the Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department to marry St. Nick’s traditional “Cruise the Parkway,” mobile community greeting with the annual tree lighting fiesta.
Katie Goetzinger, recreation program supervisor, said the merriment at White Horse Park lasts about an hour and typically draws upwards of 500 people.
“We’re going to have 45 trees sponsored by businesses, families and community groups,” she said.
Goetzinger said many of the original trees remain a part of the event.
“At least 20 of the trees have participated the last five-plus years,” she said.
Santa’s tour route on Saturday will begin at 5:30 p.m., with a departure from the north gate entrance and then trucks south on Ocean Parkway until hitting Points Reach, where the fire truck will turn around to venture north along the parkway before ending at White Horse Park.
As per tradition, Santa will be the master of ceremonies for the first lighting of the enormous Christmas tree in White Horse Park at 6:30 p.m., before heading over to St. Nick’s “little house,” to greet children.
“He counts down when we light the big tree,” she said.
Offering a feast for the ears from and for both young and old, will be the Delmarva Chorus, as well as the Little Dreamers Homeschool Choir, which is organized by Boone’s Tunes of Delmarva.
“It’s local home school kids that have a choir they put together,” she said.
Canine fans can look forward to the winner of the annual “Pup of the Pines,” photo contest.
Free hot chocolate and homemade cookies will be provided by the Kiwanis Club of Greater Ocean Pines-Ocean City.
To add further brilliance to the anchor tree and 45 surrounding sponsored saplings, the yuletide offerings in White Horse Park also will feature more than a dozen lighted displays.
“We have over 15 of those that we put out in the park,” she said. “It’s like a mini “Winterfest of Lights.”
With the decade marker approaching next year, Goetzinger said plans are afoot to expand the annual holiday showcase.
“Ocean Pines Recreation and Parks is looking for businesses and clubs that would like to sponsor Christmas light displays for the following year, which will be the 10th annual,” she said.
Making it to that benchmark proved challenging this season because of a nationwide shortage of evergreen firs.
“We’re in one of those years where trees are still growing,” she said.
Among a multitude of causes that have been cited for the deficit are both excessive heat and extended rains in recent years, plus nearly a week less time between Thanksgiving and Christmas than usual.
Additionally, following the recession in 2008, numerous tree farmers scaled back plantings, which on average take a decade to mature.
“I had to call a whole bunch of people,” she said. “We got the them from Don’s Tree Farm in Greenwood, Delaware.”
For more information contact Ocean Pines Recreation and Parks Department at 410-641-7052.