SHIRLEY -- A large, cheery crowd gathered together last Sunday night for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting in Whitely Park. Lura A. White Elementary school students in the Children's Traveling Christmas Choir sang and danced, Venture Crew #34 served hot cocoa and cookies, and the Fire Department made a special trip to the North Pole to retrieve Santa and Elf Number One to help illuminate the tree.

The traveling choir, most of whom were present to give a sampling of what is to come in their next two concerts, is directed by ShirleyArts! Director Meredith Marcinkewicz, who cued the students and merrily sang along.

Participating students in the choir are: second-graders Hanlon Lowther, Julia Lupaczyk, and Darnell Woodson; third-graders Katie Brauckmiller, Sophie Brown, Meghan Chamberlain, Celia Hagman, Michele Lindsay, Sarah Kramer, Olivia Pampinella, Lilly Robinson, and Riley Wilson; fourth-graders Leeyah Austin, Hannah Damon, Stephanie Hart, Rosalyn Lupaczyk, Emma McCarthy, and Courtney Niedermeir; and fifth-graders Alexis Blackwell and Hannah Chamberlain.

After the choir delighted the crowd with several holiday favorites, including the modern version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," in which one of the games the reindeer play is Monopoly and Santa comes to call in his underwear, the sound of a distant fire engine could be heard coming closer and closer.


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Soon Santa and his elf companion could be seen emerging from the emergency vehicle with a huge bag of candy canes for all of the children, some of whom visited Santa numerous times.

At Marcinkewicz's invitation, Santa then used his magic to light the tree and posed for photos with throngs of excited children.

The Children's Traveling Christmas Choir will perform again tonight, Friday, Dec. 7, at the Food Court in The Mall at Whitney Field in Leominster between 6 and 7 p.m.

They will also perform at the Bull Run Restaurant brunch on Sunday, Dec. 16, where they will act out the story of the first Christmas, perform the "12 Days of Christmas," and lead in a carol sing. Brunch is at noon and the show is at 1 p.m. For reservations, call 978-425-4311. Both of these performances will benefit the Shirley Friendship Fund, an all-volunteer charity for Shirley families in need.

The tree lighting event was co-sponsored by ShirleyArts! and the Shirley Scouts, who paid for the refreshments, tree and lights. Anyone wishing to help sponsor the annual event is asked to send donations to ShirleyArts!, P.O. Box 49, Shirley, MA 01464, with a note that the donation is for Christmas lights.

For information on the Children's Traveling Christmas Choir and other ShirleyArts! events, contact Meredith Marcinkewicz at mail@shirleyarts.org or visit www.shirleyarts.org.