PARKERSBURG - Few braved the cold and wet conditions to witness Parkersburg's annual Christmas Tree lighting first-hand in Bicentennial Park Friday evening, but the ceremony went forward as planned despite the weather.
Several viewed the ceremony from the second floor of the Parkersburg Municipal Building, opting to stay inside where it was warm and dry.
A layer of sleet crunched underfoot as Parkersburg Mayor Robert Newell held an umbrella over 9-year-old Lakyn Campbell, the 2013 Junior Miss Parkersburg Homecoming Festival and lighter of the city tree, while they walked to the utility pole that housed its controls.
Parkersburg Mayor Robert Newell, left, and Lakyn Campbell, 9, 2013 Junior Miss Parkersburg Homecoming Festival, pose in the cold after lighting the Parkersburg Christmas tree. (Photo by Gretchen Richards)
As Campbell bent low to flip the switch, the tree behind the pavilion illuminated against the stormy night. Few other than relatives and city officials were present to witness the moment.
"I'm really excited to get to light up the tree," said Campbell. "My favorite part is getting to see all the lights turn on and cover the tree in pretty rainbow colors."
Speaking of the importance of the tree lighting, Campbell put her hands on her hips and said, "the weather is very bad, but people should have come out anyway," she said.
A few minutes later, the controls to the tree were rigged to an actual light switch, and a second version of the lighting ceremony was held under the pavilion in front of the tree.
Inside, the Parkersburg Catholic High School handbell choir entertained a crowd of about 25 while waiting for Newell to return.
"This is one of three handbell choirs we have over at Parkersburg Catholic," said Jeff Treadway, choir director for PCHS. "It is a huge honor for us to play the mayor," he said.
The handbell choir performed several songs for the crowd, including "Jingle Bell Boogie," "Feliz Navidad" and "We Wish You A Merry Christmas."
Newell addressed the crowd after the handbell performance.
"We appreciate everyone coming out tonight, and we would apologize for the ice if we had any control over it," Newell said.
The Christmas tree displayed at Bicentennial Park was donated by Frank Pyror of 1134 46th St. in Vienna.
"The tree is prettier than it has been in years," said Nancy Wilcox, Parkersburg City Council representative for District One. "I wish the turnout had been better, but the weather was so bad," she said.
As the sleet turned to snow, city Public Works Director Mike Lemley stared out the doors of the second-floor walkway of the Parkersburg Municipal Building.
"It was a nice ceremony," said Lemley. "The weather was a huge factor, but the tree is lit now at least. People will be able to appreciate it once the weather is nice again," he said.