TOWANDA — Christmas celebration has come a little early this year with Towanda’s Hometown Christmas program that started Thursday night and will continue throughout the day today.

Thursday night kicked off the festivities with a Christmas tree lighting and choral songs being sung in front of the Progress Authority building.

Central Bradford County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Cait Monahon said this is the third year that the Chamber of Commerce has been involved in the Hometown Christmas program, though this is her first year participating.

“This is so cool,” related Monahon. “I have never come to this, so it is exciting. I continue to be amazed through the course of joining the chamber and doing these types of events, the support that we get, it is really amazing. I don’t think that people would expect anything less from this community because they always come together for things like this which is really cool.”

After the tree lighting, folks walked across the street to the Bradford County Veterans Memorial Park for a “Wreaths Across America” ceremony put on by the Towanda Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1568 with the help of civil servant Vicki Wells.

Locals were asked to reach out to Wells prior to the event to have dog tags made with the names of veterans which were hung on two Christmas trees in the park.

“Vicki Wells put the thing together and proposed it to all the veterans groups in the area,” stated Commander of VFW Post 1568 Richard Dykeman. “We decided we would help her out and got volunteers.”

This is the first year the event has taken place in Towanda and around 300 dog tags were hung up, according to Dykeman.

Wells wanted to encourage other local towns to have their own ceremonies as well.

“There are like 3,000 veterans in Bradford County, how many trees will I have to get — I’d have to hang them off the flagpole,” Wells jested. “I think other towns will be receptive towards it. It feels nice, I think the people like it.”

Following the veterans ceremony, folks went over to The Community Cup for a gingerbread house building workshop, according to Monahon.

Events start again today at 9:30 a.m. with the Run Run Rudolph registration opening at Merrill Parkway. Following that there will be free pony rides, a story time with Mrs. Claus, a free holiday movie at the Keystone Theatre, a cupcake challenge, ice sculpting in front of the court house, photos with Santa at Madigan Park from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and a parade to close off the events on Main Street at 5:00 p.m.

Monahon thanked all the local sponsors for their help in putting on the Hometown Christmas events.

“We have reached out to our entire membership base and other organizations in the area and asked for sponsorship,” stated Monahon. “I asked and we had so many responses yes, which was so amazing. It is not just us, we have a great Hometown Christmas committee who puts this together and the sponsorships who come in are pivotal in making this happen because there is a lot involved and we want to make all the events we are doing free.”

All are encouraged to come out for the Hometown Christmas festivities today, according to Monahon.

“Come and have tons of fun. Do everything and take lots of photos, post them on Facebook because we want to see what everyone is doing. New this year we are having live ice sculpting in front of the courthouse.”

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