By KATIE BEVAN and MITCH RYALS
Photos by: Jeff Lautenberger
It was an evening of firsts in Cherry Hill Thursday night.
For the first time in 15 years the Magic Tree was moved from it’s original location — the front yard of Randy Fletcher, also known as Will Treelighter — to the Village of Cherry Hill.
The village was packed with families, couples, business owners and a few canines. Kids ran around filled with excitement and sugar — thanks to all the contributions made by stores in the area. Free cookies and hot cocoa were among the goodies given out.
Huddled in the crowd was Macin Montgomery and his family. They were celebrating Macin’s first Christmas and visit to the Magic Tree. Dad, Aaron Montgomery, works at Macxperts.
“It was fantastic,” said Aaron Montgomery of his first viewing this year of the tree, which turned on for the first time last week. “That’s why I wanted them to come out tonight.”
For Montgomery the benefits were two fold. As a Macxperts employee he has acknowledged that the new location has improved business simply by adding more traffic, and he hopes to make the Magic Tree visit an annual tradition.
“I love that it’s here,” he said.
Myra Ferguson, a Columbia resident, agreed there are perks of having the tree in a more public venue.
“It’s easier to find and its a good thing to share with the community,” she said.
The community showed up in full force for the festivities. Strollers were crammed into the hallways of Twaddle Orthodontics as families waited their turn to see Santa Clause. Among the kids waiting to see Santa were Sam and Jack Schwartz, ages 6 and 4.
“We’ve probably been good,” Sam said.
“I know what I’d ask for — a cell phone,” he added as their grandmother, Beth Ashworth, chuckled to herself.
She stumbled upon the Holiday Festival with her grandsons and decided to stay for the tree lighting and enjoy the other activities. Her response to the tree’s move was bittersweet.
“It’s small, I was kinda disappointed in that,” Ashworth said of the new Magic Tree. “But I’m sure it will be beautiful. It’s nice it’s in a public place where everyone can see it.”
Another hot spot was Andrew Stone Optometry, the face painting station for the night. Some of the masterpieces dashing around Cherry Hill were pink and purple tigers and a Batman mask.
Inside of Focus on Health Chiropractic a warm cup of cocoa awaited visitors. Free chair massages were being offered and a display of Magic Tree prints by Fletcher. The images are on display in the office and people may purchase different snapshots of one of Columbia’s most famous trees.
Krista Kippenberger, the office manager at Focus on Health and a member of the planning committee for the Holiday Festival, said the committee has been working on organizing the evening’s events since the summer festival.
“I love that the Magic Tree is out here in Cherry Hill and I love all the pictures (of the tree) hanging in the office,” she said.
Kippenberger said the tree would bring a greater sense of community to the neighborhood.
“Cherry Hill is more of a destination,” she added. “The good thing about the tree is that now people aren’t just coming here because they have an appointment. It’s not just a destination anymore.”