County office building welcomes new branch

Holiday tree lighted in Westminster


With a string quartet intoning dulcet music, a chorus singing lively carols and a towering tree glimmering in white lights, Carroll County kicked off the holiday season.

Gabrielle Magalotti, 7, flipped the switch Monday evening that turned on the more than 2,000 lights decorating the county's holiday tree. The 27-foot Norway spruce, donated by a Manchester couple, will glow at the entrance to the County Office Building in Westminster through Jan. 1.

"I would like a real tree like this one, but not that big," said Gabrielle, who had just helped her family decorate an artificial tree at their home in Sykesville.

She came to hear her older sister Tricia play with the Century High School string quartet and to meet Santa Claus. Eventually, Santa - New Windsor Mayor Sam Pierce decked out in the traditional red velvet suit and cap - emerged from the shadows, shook Gabrielle's hand and passed out candy canes.

The unseasonably balmy weather helped draw a crowd of county employees and their children to the brief lighting ceremony. Suzanne Mancha jovially and repeatedly introduced herself with "I am the tree's mother," and complimented county crews on their tree-felling ability.

"They had it down and the yard completely cleaned within 45 minutes," she said.

Although the tree had been a Christmas gift from her husband, Harry, 14 years ago, Mancha said she felt little sentimental attachment.

The tree thrived so well in the couple's front yard that it eventually towered over their home.

"I don't miss it at all," she said. "Now I can see my neighbor's house."

The Manchas, about 10 members of their extended family and a few neighbors posed for photos in front of the newly relocated spruce.

"I don't remember it being this big," said their daughter, Diane Granic.

The donation, the festive atmosphere and the community celebration "are the things that make this a great county in which to live," said Commissioner Dean L. Minnich.

"This is a beautiful tree, nurtured for a long time by this family," he said. "It is fitting that it is here tonight."

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