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Arlington Hometown Holidays kicks off the start of the season

The Arlington Hometown Holidays Santa Parade packs the new Olympic Avenue. -
The Arlington Hometown Holidays Santa Parade packs the new Olympic Avenue.
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ARLINGTON The snowfall left just enough powder on the ground to make Arlingtons Hometown Holidays Santa parade on Olympic Avenue feel appropriately seasonal.
Children and adults alike were bundled up in layers of festive attire at noon Dec. 1, as a succession of Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, community volunteers, firefighters, classic cars, Elks, Christmas ponies and a walking, talking tree led into the introduction of the big man himself, Santa Claus, who officially lit the Christmas tree in Legion Park, before taking his traditional gift requests from a long line of children.
The Hometown Holidays are one of many annual events during which city of Arlington Mayor Margaret Larson has expressed her characteristic enthusiasm for the spirit of a small town, seeing the towns turnout for the parade and the days subsequent activities as further evidence of the community connections among Arlingtons citizens.
Its a spirit thats there all year round, whether its during the Fourth of July or Veterans Day, Larson said.
John Grabowski, the director of the Arlington High School band, echoed Larsons sentiments about Arlington possessing a small town atmosphere thats already been lost in far too much of America. We are a tight-knit community whose members support one another, which is a dying thing in a lot of other places.
In spite of the bands demanding schedule of providing accompanying music for many of these town events, Grabowski claimed that he rarely needs to cajole them into volunteering, since these are already great kids, regardless of what I do. They are not afraid to put themselves on the line. Theyre not so wrapped up into their TV or CD players or computers that they cant do for their community. We just hope we can help make everyone elses holidays that much more merry and festive.
Ken Ripley has been an Arlington resident for the past six winters, and hes already become a familiar sight from serving as Arlingtons only walking, talking Christmas tree since he moved to the community. When wearing his fake fir coat, complete with blinking lights and a star on top, it might be difficult to tell that Ripley isnt an actual tree, if not for the blue jeans-clad legs that stick out from the bottoms of his branches.
I came from a pinecone, like any other Christmas tree, Ripley said, when asked how he got started as a Christmas tree. Seriously, though, it was just something I decided to do, the first year I showed up here in town. I got such a positive response from it that I was asked by some of the folks I worked with to do it again.
Ripley prefers to remain silent as a Christmas tree, instead choosing to communicate with onlookers through a series of energetic high-fives and thumbs-up gestures, but he was willing to break character long enough to wish for everyone to be good to each other.
The children who saw Ripley were either fascinated or a bit apprehensive, but then, after a day with a downtown parade, a tree lighting ceremony, a band performance of seasonal carols and covered wagon rides, many of them might have been overwhelmed, even before they got to see Santa Claus.
Sally Tritt-Collins, a mother of five, is an old hand at Hometown Holidays, having attended the event every other year since her family moved to town 14 years ago.
Dont just dress warmly, but be prepared for anything from snow to rain, said Tritt-Collins, during the days cool but clear skies. Its amazing to see how this has grown with Arlington. The celebrations are fancier, but its still nice to see people that you might not get to see all the time.
Lisa LaSalata has only lived in Arlington for three years, but her family has turned out for Hometown Holidays for all three of those years, especially since two of her three children are still young enough for Santa.
Its the neatest holiday celebration of anywhere weve heard of, said LaSalata, while her children and their friends compared their lists for Santa, with requests ranging from fire trucks and model airplanes to hair streaking kits and chocolate fondue fountains. The whole community comes together.
This year marks Brett Suddereths first holiday season as an Arlington resident, and the father of three echoed LaSalatas praise for the citys celebrations.
Were used to the downtown Seattle celebrations at Westlake, but this is more down-homey, Suddereth said. Santa is the biggest hit for our kids, but the wagon rides are quaint. Theres a personable Christmas spirit in the air, and its neat to see so many smiling children.
Although Richard Moerke has lived in Arlington and attended its Hometown Holidays for seven years, this year marked his first visit to Santa in nearly 20 years, as he accompanied his granddaughter, six-year-old Haley Shoenbachler.
Its a wonderful, especially with our new streets and sidewalks, said Moerke, as Shoenbachler planned to request a Polly Pocket from Santa. Its got a relaxed atmosphere and even a little bit of snow on the ground this year.

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