2018-12-07 / Front Page

TIDINGS OF JOY

Festival promotes holiday spirit
Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Augusta resident Rebecca Williamson, 4, gladly accepts a photo opportunity with two of the Christmas season’s top celebrities. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Augusta resident Rebecca Williamson, 4, gladly accepts a photo opportunity with two of the Christmas season’s top celebrities. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Few things convey the holidays quite like fresh-cut trees, shopping, colorful light displays, Christmas carols, and Santa Claus.

Fort Gordon’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation provided all of that and more to the community during its annual Christmas Festival Nov. 29 on Barton Field.

The festival was held in conjunction with Trees for Troops, a nonprofit organization that gives live Christmas trees to military families.

“We are grateful to the Spirit of Christmas Foundation that donates trees every year, and so this is their way of giving back to the community, and we love to facilitate that,” said Bernadette White, Mobilization and Deployment specialist, Army Community Service.


Fort Gordon’s pre-K choir lays out a soundtrack – “Feliz Navidad,” “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and more – for Nov. 29’s gathering at Barton Field’s amphitheater. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Fort Gordon’s pre-K choir lays out a soundtrack – “Feliz Navidad,” “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and more – for Nov. 29’s gathering at Barton Field’s amphitheater. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Active duty Servicemembers ranks E-6 and below were eligible to receive one of more than 400 trees donated to the installation.

Taryn Alvarez, of Evans, stood in line with one of her three children and her mother. The other two, she said, were eagerly awaiting their return home so they could decorate. As an Air Force spouse stationed on a predominately Army installation, Alvarez said this was her first time benefiting from such a program and she could not be more appreciative.

“I think this is awesome,” Alvarez said. “Just standing in line for as long as the line was, everybody was chatting and laughing, nobody’s being picky about what tree is given to them ... everybody’s happy, everybody’s joyful, and I think this just spreads more love and joy.”


Joining the Clauses for a picture is the Weiss family: Petty Officer 1st Class Hunter Weiss, Naval Information Operations Command Georgia; daughter Ayla (preferring to stay near Mom and Dad), 18 months old; wife Alicia; and son Ayden, 5. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Joining the Clauses for a picture is the Weiss family: Petty Officer 1st Class Hunter Weiss, Naval Information Operations Command Georgia; daughter Ayla (preferring to stay near Mom and Dad), 18 months old; wife Alicia; and son Ayden, 5. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Alavarez’s mother, Cindy Crnich, said she wasn’t aware of any programs like Trees for Troops back when she was a military spouse years ago. Seeing the type of support that surrounds her daughter and son-in-law now is heartwarming, she said.

“I think they’re deserving of it,” Crnich said. “And it isn’t even about the tree; it’s about the recognition that the men and women – that they make a lot of sacrifices, and it’s nice to see that we’re in a different culture now where people appreciate the military.”

The majority of trees were claimed by the time the formal portion of the festival kicked off, just in time for recipients to return for an evening of fun and surprises. There was complimentary pizza, holiday cookies, hot cocoa, hot cider, and coffee courtesy of the event’s sponsors. Each child received a holiday treat bag with a chance to win a prize, raffles where guests could enter (free of charge) to win prizes, hayrides, children’s crafts, and several other activities.

Shortly after sunset, Barton Field Amphitheater transformed into a musical stage as the Garden City Chorus performed special holiday renditions. The chorus was followed by a musical selection performed by Fort Gordon’s Pre-K choir, which then turned the stage over to the evening’s guest speaker, Chaplain (Col.) Richard Garvey, Fort Gordon and U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence command chaplain.

Garvey shared a brief history about the origins of the Christmas tree and how it evolved into the symbol of Christmas it is today. Then, with the help of three Pre- K choir members and guests on the field, Garvey led the crowd in a countdown to the Christmas tree lighting on stage.

“Whatever your tradition is, whatever your background, whatever your values, I want to wish you – this Fort Gordon community – a very merry Christmas,” Garvey said.

Santa and Mrs. Claus made a brief appearance onstage before settling in for the evening under a festive tent where the community was invited to have photographs taken with the couple.

From start to finish, Danielle Hayes, special events coordinator, DFMWR Recreation Division, was instrumental in bringing the event to life. Every year, she and other directorates pour countless hours into planning and executing the Christmas Festival as a way to celebrate the season alongside other members of the community.

“We hope the Fort Gordon community enjoyed the event, and besides all the complimentary food and swag, they also took away the feeling of being loved, appreciated, and the event instilled the holiday spirit in all those that attended,” Hayes said.

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