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Fort Riley holiday tree is lit for season

By Suet Lee-Growney | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | December 08, 2017

     Soldiers, families and Fort Riley community members sat around the unlit-but-decorated holiday tree as temperatures dropped in sync with the sun Dec. 1. They were waiting for one of Fort Riley’s biggest holiday events of the year — the holiday tree lighting ceremony on Ware Parade Field in front of garrison headquarters, 500 Huebner Road.

     The emcee, Randi Hamden, operations chief, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, warmed up the crowd with her dry wit before Maj. Gen. Joseph M. Martin, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general, and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Cornelison, 1st Inf. Div. senior noncommissioned officer, came up on stage to light the tree.

     “Alright, this is not the Rockefeller, but does everybody got their cameras out?” Hamden asked the crowd before the lights were turned on. “Let’s get’em down. Alright, five, four, three, two, one.”

     The lights sprung to life and illuminated faces in the crowd to sounds of cheering and clapping.

     “Nothing but positive things, I think, came out of Friday,” Hamden said. “I like the fact that I can kind of joke with everybody as the emcee. I thought that was pretty cool that people didn’t get upset … So I thought that kind of kept everyone in the holiday mood.”

     The event brought about 500 people together and was a joint effort between DPTMS, the Directorate of Public Works, the Directorate of Emergency Services and some of the staff of USO Fort Riley feeding the crowd cookies, hot cocoa, hot cider. The Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation also provided some equipment, Hamden said.

      Ron Stewart, operations supervisor, DPTMS, said the event represents the beginning of the holiday season here.

     “It’s a signal that the holiday season is beginning to lighten the mood and become more festive in this particular area (where) everybody is very busy and everybody has a lot of worldwide missions on their mind,” Stewart said. “This year, (Hamden) who is also the narrator, she also constructed the ‘Big Red One’ (lights) that you saw on the tree. Last year she constructed one, this year she constructed four or five.”

     On top of the extra handmade “Big Red One” decor on the tree, there were other new things included in this year’s tree lighting ceremony. The first holiday lawn card competition was one. Staff at DFMWR won that competition. Stewart said the creative challenge garnered quite a bit of interest within Fort Riley organizations.

      “That added more festivity to it,” Stewart said. “But that also brought more engagement from a lot of people than it did before.”

     Hamden said the holiday lawn card competition was to replace the usual holiday blowups. She thought the idea was a neat way to get people involved. She hopes there will be more participation in the holiday lawn card competition.

      “It started out with an idea from a unit that I was in previously,” she said. “So I figured instead of us putting up these blowups, which always fell down or blew away — which definitely this weekend it would have blew away — to try and get more people involved and knowing our workforce and how competitive they like to be … Hopefully next we will get more cards out there from different units and kind of open it up for others. (This year) we kind of test ballooned it with garrison and our partners. I think next year it will get bigger, people are already planning it for next year.”

      A lit tree, cookies and hot cocoa and holiday cards. The only thing missing from the list was Santa.

      Santa arrived fashionably late in true Fort Riley style: on a fire truck. Some guests were eager to meet with him and left before the ceremony could finish. They ditched the rest of the event to get ahead inside garrison headquarters and line for a photo with him and his elves.

     Dressed in matching red plaid, the family of Staff Sgt. Charles Granger, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Inf. Div.. Abby, Granger’s wife, heard about the event on MWR’s Facebook page.

     “I’ve never been to a tree lighting before and neither have the kids, so we wanted to see that,” Abby said. “I just think it was really nice to have something that we could all do, that everybody can enjoy, snacks are always nice with these guys — it was perfect.”

      Cameron, 8, the oldest of the Granger kids, disagreed with his mother.

      “It’s because daddy keeps on saying, ‘Bah humbug,’” Cameron said, which sent his whole family chuckling.

      Granger asked his other kids what their favorite part of the evening was and the youngest, Abel, who is 2-years-old, was enthusiastic about listing all the things he liked.

      “Tree,” Abel said. “Light. Chocolate.”

      Granger said the evening was beneficial for his family.

     “It gets us out of the house,” he said. “It’s family and it’s free. Santa was here and the kids loved to see Santa … it was nice to have something on post.”

      The decorated holiday tree will be on a timed switch from dusk to dawn and remain lit until the first week of January, Hamden said.

      “The tree will stay, the decorations will be down,” she said. “Until then, it is our DPTMS responsibility that the tree and the yard of art is up and running and taken care of.”

 

Tag Holiday Tree Lighting