By C.J. LOVELACE
8:08 PM EST, December 7, 2012
Cool air and warm spirits congealed into a nostalgic Christmas experience Friday night in Funkstown.
Numerous houses were lit up with decorations, and hundreds of luminarias lining the streets gave the appearance of an almost continuous strand of white lights, lighting the way for people to enjoy the town’s annual Olde Tyme Christmas.
The goal of the free three-hour event, featuring festive holiday music, carolers, wagon rides and a special visit from Santa Claus at Town Hall, is to show “Christmas at its best” and showcase Funkstown’s hard-to-find family atmosphere, said Rich Gaver, a town councilman and co-chair of the event for the past 13 years.
“It’s not all about the money. It’s about the family,” he said, dressed in a black suit and bowtie with a black top hat. “... We just want people to come in, visit our town. Visit with us. We’re a community here. We’re a family. You don’t get that in other communities.”
Town Hall served as a launching and gathering point for many families, some from outside of Funkstown. Long lines formed as children waited to sit on Santa’s lap or to hop a ride on the wagon to Memorial Park, where the town’s Boy and Cub Scout troops hosted a Yule log bon fire.
Raffles and holiday gift auctions were going at Town Hall, where guests could buy the town’s new glass Christmas tree ornament featuring a hand-drawn picture of the Chaney House, circa 1930, by local artist Lorraine Smith.
Gaver said the event sometimes attracts twice the town’s total population or more, which also does wonders for local businesses in the area.
“Economically, it is the biggest night that any of the town businesses have,” he said. “They’ll do as much tonight as they’ll do in any week throughout the year.”
Almost every business in town stays open later during the event and many were packed with patrons throughout the evening as waves of people got off the wagon at various stops.
Greg Sullivan, who owns Hudson House Antiques on Baltimore Street with his wife, Vicky, said Olde Tyme Christmas helps to raise awareness of Funkstown and what it has to offer.
“The shops have grown and the people seem to like it,” he said, noting a conversation he had with a couple from Hagerstown who came to the shop earlier and said they had never come to Funkstown before Friday.
A craft show and roast beef dinner hosted by the Funkstown Vol. Fire Co.’s Ladies Auxiliary drew a large crowd at the fire hall while others streamed in and out of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, which offered free hot cocoa and music by local student groups.
“Everybody participates,” said Cheryl Obitts, a St. Paul’s church member. “They try to step back in time and make everyone feel relaxed.”
Gaver said the event has always been rooted in the idea of fostering a close-knit community and promoting a Christmas spirit that is seldom found anymore.
“My goal is just to make sure everybody in town knows everybody else,” he said. “We’re too the point now that you don’t know your neighbors anymore. Funkstown wants to change that.”
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