IT WASN'T just the summer-like weather that made Saturday's tree lighting in Savage seem a bit like a Fourth of July celebration. This year, the community decided to forgo the traditional red-and-green Yuletide color palette in favor of a more patriotic motif.
"The red, white and blue theme is because of Sept. 11th," said Charla Long, one of the organizers of the tree lighting.
The 12-foot blue spruce, planted about two years ago on the grounds beside historic Carroll Baldwin Hall, is usually bedecked in colored lights and red bows at Christmastime. But this year, Long believed that a show of patriotism was in order. Long's sister-in-law, Betsy Beachum, took the idea a step further by asking pupils at nearby Bollman Bridge Elementary School to make patriotic ornaments to hang on the tree.
"I didn't know how many children were affected by the tragedy," said Beachum, who does not have children at the school. She thought that making the ornaments might help them "channel their feelings," she said. "This is one more way for the children to express themselves."
Beachum had no trouble persuading Bollman Bridge art teacher Denise Venezia to help. "I love anything that gets us involved in the community," Venezia said. She decided that the task was best-suited to third-graders.
"Out of all the other people, they just picked us," said Michelle Thims, a third-grader who drew an American flag on a white foam heart to hang on the tree. "We're not too old and not too young."
Beachum supplied Venezia and fellow art teacher Ray Henry with materials - white foam hearts, blue foam stars, glitter and markers. The teachers promptly set up an ornament-making station in the art room.
The effort yielded about 60 ornaments, which were added to the tree during a festive outdoor celebration that began at dusk Saturday. Neils Thims, 18, was there in full Santa regalia despite the warm weather, while his sister Donicia and friend Kristian White, both 15, dressed in elf garb. They randomly distributed the pupils' handmade ornaments to children to hang on the tree, which was already bursting with hundreds of tiny red, white and blue lights.
"This is so sweet," said Sara Vermillion, a two-year resident of Savage, as she watched the festivities with her husband, Don, and fourth-grade son Matthew. "There's a nice sense of community here."
Long said that the children's involvement enhanced community spirit this year. She hopes that this is the start of a new tradition. "I got a little misty watching a little boy put an ornament on the tree," she said. "I thought, `Maybe he'll come back here when he's grown and his son will do the same thing.'"
Hats off to this tree
The Bollman Bridge Elementary student government is asking for help decorating a holiday tree in the school lobby. But hold off on the garland and bows, please - this tree is to be decked with new hats and mittens.
"We give them to needy families in our area," said physical education teacher Jim McCleary, one of the group's advisers. Unused, children's-sized items may be delivered to the school through next week.
Musicians of note
Several children from Lime Kiln Middle School successfully auditioned for this year's Howard County Gifted and Talented Symphonic Band. They are sixth-grader Kenny Kim, seventh-grader James Chen and eighth-graders Ryan McMichael, Brett Morales and Becky McLaughlin. Selected as alternates are eighth-graders William Utley and Greg Varner.
Becky McLaughlin, who earned first chair for the horn for the second year in a row, also was selected to the All-State Symphonic Band, said Lime Kiln band director Andrew Spang. The GT Symphonic Band will begin rehearsing in January in preparation for a spring concert.
Treat your ears tonight to music performed by some of the best student musicians in the county. The Gifted and Talented Orchestra, made up of 95 middle-schoolers including Lime Kiln pupils Caroline Kim, Kimberly Rhee, Darcy Hancock and Melissa Byun, will join the elementary school Enrichment Orchestra for a free concert, beginning at 7:30 p.m., at River Hill High School. Fulton Elementary cellist Lindsey Ullman is one of 70 elementary school-age musicians slated to perform, said Patrick Walls, a director of the Enrichment Orchestra.
Matthew Beck, a third-grader at Bollman Bridge Elementary, said that he was proud of the ornament that he made for the Savage holiday tree.
"It was a blue star with red sprinkles," he said just before the tree lighting. "And it said `Go USA' in the middle."
The patriotic bauble is different from what you might have seen in years past, but Matthew says that his ornament is important because it represents something in addition to Christmas.
"I think it celebrates the U.S.A.," he said.