It’s the most wonderful time of the year- Christmastime in Downtown Shippensburg!

The town will come alive with Christmas music, dancing elves, colorful creatures, festive floats and of course, Santa Claus himself when the 30th annual Downtown Organizations Investing Together (DOIT) Christmas Parade rolls through the streets next Saturday evening, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.

Everyone including individuals, businesses and organizations are encouraged and invited to participate in this year’s parade. Registration is open thru November 26 and anyone entering the parade has an opportunity to take home cash prizes of up to $300!

A huge part of the holiday celebration in Shippensburg centers around the lighting of the town Christmas tree, and this year will be no different. The town tree, located on the corner of Prince and King streets on the grounds of Shippensburg First Church of God will be decorated by members of the church and the community, and will be illuminated by Jolly Ole’ Saint Nick himself at the conclusion of the parade.

The new tree, an 8-foot Concolor Fir, was purchased and planted by the church earlier this fall and will be jazzed-up in time for next week’s tree-lighting. The previous tree was taken down due to several issues, first and foremost being the condition of the tree which was deteriorating, the lack of having the proper equipment to decorate such a large tree, and the liability issue the tree and its size posed to both the church and the community.

George Fritz is a member of the Shippensburg First Church of God and a member of the church trustee’s and has been involved with the maintenance of the tree, which falls under the responsibility of the trustee committee.

“I and several other members of the church have taken care of decorating the tree and maintaining the tree for the past few years, and as early as last year noticed how the tree had started to deteriorate from the inside,” Fritz explained, “Rebar had been used to stabilize the trunk of the tree which wasn’t straight, and that combined with the amount of disease within the tree prompted us to discuss taking down the tree and replacing it with a new one.”

Fritz said the trustees knew the community would be upset when the tree came down and it saddened them as well because the tree has been part of the community forever.

“It was always our intention to replace the tree with a new one, despite what community members may have thought or read on social media,” Fritz noted. “Our goal from day one was to find a new tree and have it planted in time for the holiday season. We (the church) love being part of the Christmas celebration and tradition in Shippensburg as much as anyone, but our concern for the existing tree and the potential risk involved with its continued upkeep were things we had to consider when making the decision to remove the tree. We hope the community understands our position and they realize replacing the tree with a new one was the best possible solution.”

In the past, Borough employees, fire company members (and use of the ladder truck), as well as church members helped to decorate the 14-foot tree, which became quite an undertaking, according to Fritz.

“The borough used their bucket truck to help decorate the tree the first several years. When the tree outgrew the use of the bucket truck, the fire company stepped in and helped by using the ladder truck, which was a huge help. However, if a fire call came in that would involve the use of the ladder truck, then that would become an issue,” Fritz explained. “Luckily that never happened. but it was an issue that would pose a problem if the situation ever came up. Having adequate equipment, combined with the overall health of the tree and having enough volunteers to help decorate the large tree, all played a part in the decision to replace the existing tree,” he said.

Fritz went on to explain the history of the town Christmas tree as he knew it. “The new tree is actually the third tree to be planted in the same location by the church. The previous tree was planted by the fire company and stood on the site for 20 years before being taken down in 2001. The previous tree that the church replaced earlier this fall was there for 20 years as well, and so we hope the new tree will live up to its predecessors and add beauty and color to many more Christmas celebrations to come,” he said.

Based on the care information and instructions provided to the church trustees for the new tree, he is confident that with proper maintenance and care, the new tree should last another 20 to 30 years. It will take time to grow of course, but decorating it and being able to maintain the tree as it grows will be much easier. Of course if Mother Nature cooperates and weather and the elements remain on the good side, having a big, healthy tree once again should be no problem.

“We certainly understand the fond attachment the community has for the tree and we are more than happy to continue to maintain the tree and ensure that it is part of many happy Christmas celebrations to come,” Fritz stated. “We are truly grateful for all of the support and understanding shown to us throughout this process and we hope everyone will come out and be part of the parade and tree-lighting ceremony next week!”

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