The light drizzle was secondary to sipping hot chocolate and eating sugar cookies as South Side residents collected outside of Beauchamp Branch Library for the 14th annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony held on the evening of Monday, Dec. 5.
Music and cheer filled the corner of East Colvin and South Salina streets as the crowd sang, “Joy to the World” and counted down from 10 until the tree was lit.
Tatianah Mckinney, 10, said she comes to the tree lighting every year and she loves it. “It’s fun and we get free hats and gloves,” she said referring to a hat and glove giveaway that follows the ceremony.
The South Side tradition was sponsored by Key Bank and done in collaboration with the presentation of the Charles Dozier III Memorial Scholarship Award. Dr. Rick Wright, local radio host of Power AM 620 was the MC for the night and has been for the past 10 years.
Residents look forward to the ceremony each year and consider it a time for “South Side neighbors to express the spirit of peace, love and joy” as noted in the pamphlet handed to guests.
It was a star-studded event. Wright introduced police Chief Frank Fowler, Fourth District Common Councilor Khalid Bey and Councilor at Large Helen Hudson before giving Mayor Stephanie Miner the stage.
“The South Side is a real community where people care about each other and our future,” the mayor said. “The South Side has great spirit,” she added. Miner ended with wishes of peace for the remainder of the year and for 2012.
Guests were treated to a dance performance by Southern MB Church Praise Dancers and a Christmas poem by Beauchamp Branch librarian Pam Crane. Community service awards were distributed to local organizations such as 100 Black Men and individuals like Babette Baker, coordinator for Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today (TNT), for outstanding contributions to the community.
As the event came to a close, the scholarship award was presented to a very excited G.W. Fowler High School senior, Brianna Vassar. Vassar said she hopes to study law enforcement and Chief Fowler clapped a little harder than everyone else.
Shirley Rowser, who helps organize the annual event, said she enjoys doing it because it brings the community together and sets the tone for the season. “It’s about the peace and love of the season, and I’m glad we have made it to the 14th annual,” she said.
For Alex Donovan, a 16-year-old Corcoran High School student, the tree lighting was a chance to see something good on the South Side, he said. Although he has lived in Syracuse for most of his life, this was his first time attending the event, but he plans to return. “If it’s as nice as this year, I’ll come back,” he said.
Community Service Award Recipients:
Babette Baker – TNT Coordinator
Mike Behnke – Volunteer
Jacqueline Cooper – Carrier employee and Volunteer
Connie Gregory – Lit’ for Life
Marcelle M. Haddix, PhD. – Professor at Syracuse University
100 Black Men – Syracuse, NY chapter
Jeff Paston – Volunteer
Samuel Rowser – On-Point for College
Barbara Rohadfox – Volunteer
Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell – Dance Artist and Instructor
The Two Charles Dozier III Scholarship Winners:
Brianna Vassar – G.W. Fowler High School
— List of winners provided by Beauchamp Branch Library