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Chester County Press

Longwood Gardens, New Garden and West Grove ring in the holidays

12/12/2014 10:54AM ● By Richard Gaw

A Longwood Christmas: A Chester County tradition

A walk through Longwood Gardens during the holiday season is not just a series of steps, but a journey back into our childhood. With each step, we recall the moments when our anticipation of the holiday season was made more vivid through our imagination...a time of the year when everything glowed, when toy trains glided around the track, and when everything was possible.

From now until Jan. 11, A Longwood Christmas is guaranteed to bring back the magic of childhood, while giving children the opportunity to bring their wildest dreams to life. From the outer gardens to the Conservatory, Longwood Gardens is a masterpiece of light and sound. Outside, guests can disappear into a forest of more than a half-million lights; climb the Birdhouse Treehouse; enjoy the Garden Railway miniature locomotives as they wind their way through a magical landscape; gaze at the light display at the Italian Water Garden; and enjoy the colorful fountains to the accompaniment of holiday music.

Inside, a continuing series of performers like the Olde Towne Carolers, Rob Dickenson and the Brandywine Christmas Minstrels and organ sing-a-longs will lend the music of the season to the festivities. The Music Room depicts a festive Peacock Masquerade Ball, complete with an 18-foot decorated tree. This season, A Longwood Christmas features hundreds of hand-crafted birds the can be seen throughout the Conservatory, from topiary swans, to birdhouses, owls, and bald eagles that decorate tree houses.

Admission to A Longwood Christmas is by timed admission ticket only, with tickets issued for a specific date and time. For complete information about how you and your friends and family can become a part of this annual Chester County holiday tradition, visit

North Pole resident receives official police escort to New Garden holiday event

A man identified as Kris Kringle, a.k.a., Santa Claus, arrived at the New Garden holiday tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 5 in a New Garden Township police vehicle driven by Officer Mario Raimato.

Mr. Kringle's arrival, before a rain-soaked audience of 100 jolly souls, came at 6:45 p.m., 15 minutes after the annual tree lighting ceremony in New Garden Township Park, sponsored by the New Garden Township. Despite the rain, Kringle, a bearded, portly man dressed in a red and white suit and black boots, was in a festive mood, as he led attendees to officially light the holiday tree, an eight-foot spruce near the park's pavilion.

Following the tree lighting, guests were ushered inside the historic Lyceum House where, on the lower level, holiday goodies like hot chocolate, hot cider, cookies, brownies and cupcakes were served by township Parks and Recreation Director Barbara Underwood and a group of volunteers. Among those in attendance at the event were township supervisors Randy Geouque, Steve Allaband, chairperson Betty Gordon, as well as former supervisor Robert Perrotti, whose efforts helped save the Lyceum House from destruction, efforts that ultimately moved the historic structure from its former site on Route 41 to its new home in the park.

For nearly the next hour, Kringle listened to the holiday gift requests of dozens of children while parents snapped an endless series of photographs.

According to Kringle's testimony, he is a long-time resident of the North Pole, a hamlet situated at the top of the Northern Hemisphere. He identified himself as a "toymaker for children of all ages, all over the world." When asked about whether his system of world-wide distribution was done through on-line sources, Kringle responded that he was a single-source distributor, coordinated through the use of a sleigh and eight reindeer, one night a year.


New tree, same spirit: West Grove rings in the season

For what seems like forever, those who attended the kick-off of the holiday season in West Grove would gather around the very large and pungent spruce tree adjacent to the town's municipal building and library, and from the top of its peak to its trunk, the tree was an annual spectacle of light.

Until this year.

Over time, the tree became a victim of its own vibrancy. After much deliberation, public works employees saw that the tree had reached a height so tall that it was beginning to tangle with telephone wires. After a small brush fire nearby damaged a portion of the tree earlier this year, the town's leaders decided that it was time to remove it and make way for a new tree, which they purchased from the Schmidt's Tree Farm in Landenberg and planted this past April.

On Dec. 4, before about 100 shivering but spirited carolers, town leaders and families, the new tree – standing proud at a little more than four feet – made its debut. As he cajoled those in attendance to count down to the official lighting of the tree, West Grove Mayor Stephen Black said, "It is small and yet it is mighty, and it will grow for decades to come."

As they waited for the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Kris Kringle, the audience joined in a chorus of carols led by musicians Eric Day and Anthony Zunino. After about three carols, however, the lights of the distant West Grove Fire Company vehicle came roaring into view, and at about 6:45, the Kringles stepped off the vehicle to a rousing greeting, as they were welcomed by Mayor Black to West Grove.

Resplendent in his signature red suit, the big, happy fellow led his wife and dozens of children to The Garage Community Youth Center down Rosehill Road, for a warm evening of community spirit...and holiday wish lists.

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