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Tree lighting sets off string of holiday events

Sgt. James Old, 98th Army “Silver Wings” Band vocalist, reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to children in the post theater during the Commanding General’s Holiday Concert last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Sgt. James Old, 98th Army “Silver Wings” Band vocalist, reads “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to children in the post theater during the Commanding General’s Holiday Concert last year. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: December 5, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (December 5, 2014) -- As Christmas officially kicks off on post with the tree lighting ceremony this evening, Fort Rucker has no shortage of ways to get people in the holiday spirit.

Santa Claus and his helpers will make a special visit today at Howze Field from 4:45-6 p.m. to kick off the season with the Fort Rucker Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, but that’s just the beginning of what the installation has in store for its residents and visitors.

“Whether you’re a civilian or military, single Soldier or family member, you will be able to find something to do with the many fun activities planned for this holiday season,” said Janice Erdlitz, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation marketing director. “It’s December and that means music. Lots and lots of happy, jolly holiday music.

“We hope everyone will be able to take in one of the performances the 98th Army Band will host, starting with the tree lighting ceremony,” she said. “We’re very excited to have them support our annual Christmas Tree Lighting (tonight). The band puts on a great show and it’s a wonderful opportunity to show your support for the talented Soldier cast and the U.S. Army.”

Following the tree lighting, people can stop by The Landing for photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus from 6-7:30 p.m.

The  Center Library will host its Christmas Craft Activity Dec. 9 from 3:30-4:30 p.m. where children ages 3-11 can go to make a variety of Christmas decorations and artwork. Children must register and space is limited to the first 65 children. For more information or to register, stop by the Center Library or call 255-3885.

One of the biggest ways to get into the holiday spirit this year is with the Commanding General’s Holiday Concert where the 98th Army “Silver Wings” Big Band will perform a host of holiday favorites to usher in the season of giving.

The concert will be held at the post theater Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. as the first in their series of performances. Subsequent performances will be held Dec. 11 at the Flowers Performing Arts Center in Ozark and Dec. 12 at the Dothan Opera House in Dothan, both starting at 7 p.m.

All concerts are free and open to the public and seating is limited, so people are encouraged to arrive early.

For those looking to keep fit while enjoying the tastes of the season, Fort Rucker will host the Holiday Ham Golf Shootout Dec. 13, with tee times running from 7-9 a.m. at the Silver Wings Golf Course where people can play to win a holiday ham.

The game will be an Individual Stroke Play and cost to participate is $20 per person, plus cart and green fees, if applicable. Prizes will be awarded to gross and net winners, and people must register to play by 9 a.m. Dec. 13. For more information, call 598-2449.

To get the blood pumping a little faster, Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Center will host the annual Mistletoe 5K and 1-mile fun to get people pumped for the holiday season.

The run will be held in front of the fitness center Dec. 13 at 9 a.m. Participants are encouraged to pre-register for the race, and can do so at either gym or MWR central. People can also register for the race on the day of the event from 7:30-8:40 a.m.

Refreshments will be provided and trophies will be awarded in different categories, including overall male and female; master male and female; grandmaster male and female; first place trophies in 14 age categories; and medals for second and third place in 14 age categories. There will also be a team trophy and team streamers awarded to the top 10 finishing teams. For more information, call 255-3794

Following the Mistletoe 5k, people can head down to The Landing for breakfast with a very special guest. Erdlitz said there are plenty of opportunities to see the man in red, but one of the most memorable occasions is Breakfast with Santa.

Families can enjoy a morning of Breakfast with Santa Dec. 13 from 9 a.m. to noon at The Landing with a breakfast buffet to include eggs, bacon, hash browns, pancakes, toast, ham, biscuits with gravy, assorted fruits and much more.

“Families can sit down together and enjoy a spectacular breakfast, spending that quality family time together,” said the marketing director. “Afterwards, kids can meet with Santa, give him their Christmas list and enjoy some fun time meeting and getting their pictures made together.”

Another family-friendly activity to get into the swing of the holidays is at Fort Rucker’s own Rucker Lanes, where people can decorate a pin from now until Dec. 15. People can decorate with paint, paper, jewels and ribbons, and prize packs will be awarded for the best pins Dec. 23. Cost to enter the contest is $1 and pins must be brought back by Dec. 19 to be entered for a chance to win.

Rucker Lanes will also be hosting its Ugly Sweater Party Dec. 24 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. People are encouraged to don their ugliest sweater and bowl a few games for a chance to win a prize. Cost to enter is $6 per person, which includes two games of bowling, shoe rental, one cup of eggnog and two cookies.

For more information on decorating a pin or the Ugly Sweater Party, call 255-9503.

The holidays are also known for many as a time of worship, and the Fort Rucker Religious Support Office has worship services and events planned to help educate and entertain.

The Advent Workshop, which will be Dec. 7 at 11:30 a.m. at the Spiritual Life Center, teaches the meaning of the advent season. Children will enjoy different activities in different classrooms and learn the meaning of the different manger scenes, as well as what the colors of Christmas mean, said Nancy Jankoski, Fort Rucker Religious Support Office director of religious education.

“This is to help prepare people’s hearts for Christmas and learn about faith, hope, peace and love,” she said.

There will also be a Christmas Family Night Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Spiritual Life Center where people can “find their place at the manger,” and enjoy “The Jesus Birthday Party.” During the event, children can help build the manger scene as the story is being told, then celebrate the birth of Jesus with a birthday party afterward, where they will be sent home with a stocking stuffed with gifts.

Dec. 17, at the Main Post Chapel, Bldg. 8940, children will put on their annual Christmas drama, and this year’s drama will feature “The Best Christmas Present Ever.” Following the performance, a light supper will be served.

For more information on worship services, call 255-2989 or 255-2012.

“We make the opportunities happen to help families make memories together that will last a lifetime,” said Erdlitz. “I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas and holiday season.”

This article was originally published at

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