A joyous night: Pelham comes together for tree lighting ceremony

PELHAM – Hundreds of area residents flooded the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena on Thursday, Nov. 29, for what might’ve been one of the city’s most attended Community Christmas Tree Lighting programs.

“I’m amazed at the crowd this year,” said Pelham resident Paul Stephenson, who attended with his wife Michele. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this crowded.”

As residents packed into the complex, they were greeted with music from the Pelham High School Jazz Band and by members of the Beautification Board who passed out more than 1,000 Pelham Christmas ornaments.

The city’s tree lighting program kicked off at 6:30 p.m. with Councilman Maurice Mercer welcoming everyone to the program and then an invocation and a Christmas message from Pastor Jerry McClain of Kingdom Christian Center.

McClain reminded the audience that Christmas starts in the heart and encouraged everyone to keep in mind the sacrifices that those who serve in the military make for the sake of safeguarding America. He asked the audience to reflect upon the thousands who won’t be home for Christmas and on the families of Army Special Forces soldiers Capt. Andrew Ross, 29, of Lexington Virginia, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington and Special Tactics Air-Force Airman Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania who died on Nov. 27 while serving in Afghanistan.

His message then shifted to praying for God to protect the city and everyone in it and to give everyone safe travels during the holiday season. Pelham Boy Scout Troop 404 and the Pelham Fire Department Color Guard presented to colors followed by the national anthem by the PHS choir.

As the program continued, students from the Pelham Skate School and the Birmingham Figure Skating Club dazzled the audience with on-ice performances with choirs from Pelham Oaks, Pelham Ridge, Pelham Park Middle and PHS providing the music. Members of the youth hockey team, the Pelham Mite Under 8 Division, also showcased their skills during a scrimmage game.

As the program closed, PHS student senior Alex Wilkins had the honor of flipping the switch to light the Christmas tree. Afterward, children and their parents flocked to the ballroom to get a photo with Santa. The wait was made better with cookies and hot cocoa from students in the PHS culinary arts program.

Stephenson said his favorite part of the program was seeing the youth ice skaters perform to songs from the school choirs.

“We love supporting the local area,” said Stephenson, who is also a Birmingham Bulls season ticket holder. “This is always a great event to attend. We need these kinds of numbers at the Bulls games.”