Star Wars

Published on November 29


Time: Early 1960s.


Place: Economy Elementary School, Beaver County, Pa.


Starring: Your local columnist as an earnest 6-year-old.


Back in the day, the big art project as the holiday inched closer was to decorate the Christmas tree in the first-grade classroom.


This meant making paper chains from strips of colored construction paper carefully pasted together. The glue was the best part, seriously. It smelled heavenly, even if you couldn’t get high from sniffing it.


It was solid glue, white, and it came in a big container kept in the class closet. On decorating day, the teacher went from desk to desk giving each student a little dollop on a small square of paper. Don’t waste it!


Whoo-hoo! It was arts and crafts time. Nothing was better, not even Halloween, which tended to be more chaotic. The teacher played Christmas carols, and everybody’s inner Santa seemed to emerge, even the boys who thought eating the glue was the coolest thing ever.


I got really good at those chains. They were all over the house at home, sometimes joining the antique ornaments used year after year on the real pine trees that were a must.


But nothing I ever did beats the 49 trees displayed at the Lake Square Mall that were decorated by Lake County students as a fundraiser for art and music classes. These kids went all-out.


Each tree has a theme, and students from each of the schools decorated around the theme. Some of the usual stuff — snowflakes, Santa boots and hats, reindeer, miniature knitted caps, stars, candy canes.


But some of those little rascals got wild. From the older students at Lake Technical College came symbols of their newly chosen careers — red and green syringes glued together to create a star from the nursing students, a beautiful metal disc embossed with a Christmas tree on it from the metal-working guys and an old computer monitor as a topper for the tech tree. Extra points for a whimsical sense of humor.


Among the most enchanting of trees, however, is the one created by students at Rimes Elementary in Leesburg, who are pre-schoolers through second grade. Their theme of “There’s Snow Place Like Home” featured penguins of all sorts cavorting around the tree.


This is all part of a fundraiser — folks can come and bid on the tree they want, starting at $25. The artificial trees, ranging from 4½ to 7½ feet, were donated to the schools to decorate by local businesses.


A buyer gets the tree, its ornaments, lights and skirt. Anyone can walk around the trees scattered throughout the mall and place a bid through Dec. 9.


“We’re inviting people to come into the mall and experience the spirit,” said Dr. Anna Marie Chwastiak, bubbly producer of the city of Leesburg’s LakeFront TV and organizer of the tree project. “Every nickel goes to the education foundation to support the arts.”


She said later in the month more Lake students will be coming to the mall to provide live holiday music.


If ever you’ve wanted an artificial tree, this definitely is the time to save some bucks.


Across the country, news outlets are reporting a shortage of live trees and prices higher than expected. It takes nearly 10 years for a tree to get tall enough to be harvested for the holiday. At the time this year’s trees were planted, the country was deep in a recession and growers were cutting back.


A recent story in the Miami Herald warned consumers that trees would cost about 20 percent more than they did last year and that sellers are likely to run out earlier. All told, folks are expected to buy 27 million trees nationwide, about the same as last year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.


These trees, however, are different. They’re decorated by children whose freshness and hope shine through the hand-crafted ornaments. The feeling bursts from miniature knitted caps on one tree and pine cone penguins on another. One even features handwritten stories from the children.


So, happy holidays, Lake County. Here’s hoping you have a chance to tap into the joy of the season with the help of local students.


See the original article here.