LITTLE VOICES AND little gifts were plentiful at the Westminster Nursing and Convalescent Center and the Deerfield Senior Day Center on Friday, thanks to preschoolers with the YMCA Chipmunks program.
After months of rehearsals, the youngsters belted out some of the season's best songs. They gave plenty of hugs and "Merry Christmas" wishes, too.
Then they distributed handmade gift bags filled with potpourri and toiletries to all the residents and enjoyed milk and cookies and warm conversations until it was time to go. This was the fourth year the preschool program has shared holiday cheer.
Most of the residents wore their Sunday finest, some wore Santa Claus hats, and everyone was beaming.
"There is nothing like children and Christmas," said Brenda Stansbury, activity coordinator for the nursing center. "This event sets the mood for the rest of the holiday season for the residents. They ask every year if the children are coming."
"This visit helps them know that there is so much more to Christmas than presents," said Terry Stritzinger, director of the YMCA Chipmunks program, which meets at the Westminster United Methodist Church. "The children learn that there are people who can't get out and who really appreciate visitors."
"I enjoy seeing the age differences and watching how the older people and the children mingle so well," said preschool teacher Heidi Hess.
The Carroll County Arts Council's annual Festival of Wreaths has become its largest fund-raiser, and one of the most enjoyable, organizers said last week as they announced that they had raised more than $8,000.
"Last year, we raised $5,400. This year we raised $8,300, and we are overwhelmed by the generosity and the creativity of the decorators as well as the bidders," said Sandy Oxx, executive director of the arts council. "Usually fund raising is the least favorite part of people's jobs, but this is fun."
Hundreds of people walked the halls of the Winchester Exchange Building to look at and bid on wreaths that were as whimsical as they were elegant. Westminster Bank & Trust's "Vacation Getaway" wreath sold for $550, the most money raised by one entry.
The public voted for its favorites, and the awards included: Most Unusual, Nathan's Forge Ltd.; Most Comical, Drs. Scott, Lawyer & Lu; Favorite Town Wreath, City of Westminster's "A Sterling Tribute"; Favorite Natural Wreath, Piney Run Nature Center; Favorite Traditional Wreath, John Marsiglia, Manchester Manor; Best Example of the Holiday Spirit, "Peace" by Mara/Shawn Lockhart; Kid's Favorite, Masonry Homes' "Pokemon: Gotta Catch 'em All"; Most Artistic, Carroll County Artists Guild's "12 Days of Christmas"; Heritage Award, Sykesville Historic Black Schoolhouse; All Around Favorite, Western Maryland College's "Green Terror Football."
Other awards chosen by celebrity judges included: Commissioner's Choice Award, Bachman Valley Herb Farm; Mayor's Choice Award, Carroll County Bee Keepers Association's "Hap Bee Holidays"; Arts Council President's Award, Francis J. Design's "Picture Postcard Christmas"; Arts Council Director's Award, Mercer Floors Mosaic Tile Wreath; Santa's Choice Award, Carroll Gardens.
"We had 105 talented decorators participating this year," said Oxx. "And hooray for David Max, the owner of the Winchester Exchange Building, for letting us put 200 nails in the wall."
Mayor's Cup moves on
Since 1985, give or take a few years' hiatus, businesses in downtown Westminster have created glorious storefront windows and competed for the coveted Mayor's Cup.
This year the trophy went to the Flower Box, 14 W. Main St., for its window, which celebrates 2000 with a traditional touch.
"We wanted something striking that would jump out at you," said Frank Tunzi, one of the designers of the display. "The silver 2000 does that, plus the fireworks effect behind it. This window reflects the kind of work designers here have done for the last 50 years and it says, `Come into the shop and see what we can do.' "
Arrangements in the window were created by Donna Dodge and Becky Spicer. Stephanie Vansandt and Debbie Youmans helped Tunzi create the display.
Fourteen businesses competed for the Mayor's Cup this year. Last year, Time-ly Gifts at 30 W. Main St. earned the award.
The competition is sponsored by Westminster's Department of Recreation and Parks, which donates the winner's prize, a one-year family membership to the recreation center.
"This has been a great little tradition that encourages downtown merchants to get creative with their windows during the holiday season," said Ron Schroers, supervisor of recreation. "The winner will keep the engraved trophy until next year."
Lisa Breslin's Central neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.