Town’s first tree lighting promotes fellowship

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Members of the St. Anthony community gather in front of Divine Mercy Parish to watch the first tree blessing and lighting, sing carols and later enjoy chili and hot dogs in St. Anthony on Sunday. Divine Mercy Christian Mother's Sodality, St. Anthony Community Center, St. Anthony Volunteer Fire Department, St. Anthony Conservation Club, St. Anthony American Legion Post 493 and the 800 Club sponsored the event.


ST. ANTHONY — Scott Uebelhor compared it to the Christmas tree Charlie Brown brought home in the famous Peanuts holiday special.

And just like the iconic, thin shrub in that classic cartoon, the spruce that members of the St. Anthony Volunteer Fire Department decorated brought people together. But they didn’t do it alone.

Sunday evening, the efforts of six St. Anthony community organizations culminated in the unincorporated town’s first ever public Christmas tree lighting. Orchestrators hoped about a hundred people would come to the inaugural event. More than twice that showed up.

“I’m gonna say it symbolizes a big start,” said Uebelhor, chief of the town’s fire department. “It shows that we can work together if we put ourselves in that position.”

Melissa Miller of Birdseye and her daughter Sophie, 7, sing carols during the St. Anthony tree lighting at Divine Mercy Parish in St. Anthony on Sunday.

In recent years, the town had no free Christmas gathering. Organizers now plan on growing the event into the future and decorating throughout the year as well.

The roughly 28-foot decorated tree sprouts from the grounds of the St. Anthony campus of Divine Mercy Parish. The church’s priest, Father Christopher Droste, gave a blessing prior to the lighting. Festive carols were crooned, the American flag was raised, God Bless America was sung, and attendees were invited into the parish center for food and conversation.

“It’s good to mesh people in an atmosphere where everybody’s kind of thrown together,” Uebelhor said. “You get to talk to other people, see other people and greet other people that you don’t see unless you go to church, or go to the Firemen’s Fest, or go the community center dinners.”

He continued: “You don’t see all these people. Which is a real shame. Today, we’re all moving so fast, trying to get here and get there and get all these things done.”

But those who came to the event stopped and paused from the hustle and bustle to have fun.

Event sponsors included the fire department, Divine Mercy Christian Mother’s Sodality, St. Anthony Community Center, St. Anthony Conservation Club, St. Anthony American Legion Post 493 and 800 Club. Each group donated its talents and expertise to make the community lighting a reality.

Uebelhor said that the same organizations also came together for the town’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2014 and created an endowment that is benefiting the community in many ways.

After the lighting and blessing of a spruce tree, Sophia Lueken, 3, of St. Anthony, left, jokingly waved food over her brother Beau's head at the Divine Mercy Parish center in St. Anthony on Sunday.

Wilma Wendholt, president of the Christian Mother’s Sodality, agreed with him that the lighting promoted fellowship and togetherness. She said the high attendance number showed that people care about the community and are proud of it.

She added that it was great to see all the organizations pitch in. The conservation club made chili soup, the 800 club cooked hot dogs, members of the Christian Mother’s Sodality decorated the church and town and the legion post supplied the color guard for the flag raising. The community center bought grapevine snowman wreaths and other wreaths that are hung around St. Anthony.

“Everybody did their share,” Wendholt said. “For something we planned kind of quick, it really came off very well.”

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