Center Station hosts tree lighting
by Lindsay Moran
Neighborhood residents are turning on their lights and holiday decorations, creating a festive glow down Madison Avenue. The Pine Hills neighborhood is contributing its own light, celebrating its 14th annual tree lighting ceremony on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The tree stands in front of the steps of center station, at the intersection of Western and Madison Avenues. The New Albany Neighborhood Association is organizing the ceremony for the second year, after taking over for the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association in 2014.
The event began as a small way to create community interaction and involvement, and now attendance has increased steadily each year.
“More folks are looking forward to this event,” said Karen Phillips, a member of the New Albany Neighborhood Association and coordinator of the ceremony, “and it all comes together with many moveable parts.”
One of these moveable parts, an addition to this year’s tree lighting, includes new speakers and a microphone. The equipment is being donated by radio host Richie Phillips from WGNA. The city also installed external power outlets outside the station, which will be used this year. These new components will improve the sound quality for spectators who come to watch students of Pine Hills Elementary as they sing carols led by choral director, Nathaniel Wardlaw.
Wardlaw, a first-year music teacher at Pine Hills Elementary, is leading 90 students in song at this year’s celebration.
“We have prepared four songs for the students to sing which we have been practicing in music class for the last few weeks,” said Wardlaw.
He feels the tree lighting represents collaborations between the Parent Teacher Association, the music program, and the neighborhood association. The neighborhood association works closely with the school’s Parent Teacher Association, and communicates regularly in the weeks prior, to ensure the choir’s annual attendance and performance.
The focal point, the tree lighting itself, is made possible by Osborne Road Tree Nursery. For the last three years, the nursery donated a small tree to place outside the station for the neighborhood to admire during the season.
“The whole thing gives people a sense of community,” said Police Officer Joseph Acquaviva of last year’s ceremony. Acquaviva is active in communicating with the neighborhood association and has been responsible for the tree donation for several years.
Spinners and Price Chopper also contribute annually by donating food and drinks for the reception that follows for the students and parents at Pine Hills Elementary on North Allen Street.
The neighborhood association plans to keep the tradition a part of the community for years to come. It is not just a string of lights: the tree and its lighting are representative of a close-knit neighborhood and the instilled values that bring them closer, especially during the holiday season.
“I feel much more connected to the community that I live and teach in,” said Wardlaw, “and the students feel lucky to sing for the neighborhood.” -30-