Holiday festivities kick off with big weekend
For some, the holiday season kicks off on Saturday, Nov. 30, and promises to offer plenty of reason for good cheer in the Hagerstown area as Holly Fest whirls into The Maryland Theatre for a free holiday dance feature.
The event will be accompanied by shopping at Christkindl Markt at University Plaza throughout the day, and will culminate with the City Center Tree Lighting in the evening.
Kitty Clark, community events coordinator for the City of Hagerstown, said Holly Fest is a decades-long tradition.
“It originated as a Christmas parade many years ago,” she said. “But because of uncertain weather conditions and it being so soon after the Alsatia Mummers Parade, the city took the celebration inside to The Maryland Theatre.”
While the show started off as a variety of acts, Clark said, over the years it settled into a showcase mainly of dance talent of local students and children’s groups from the local community. This year’s participants include Ballet and All That Jazz, Boonsboro Dance Academy, Barbara Ingram School for the Arts Dance Department, Bloom Dance Studio and Seed Dance Company, Fresh Academicz, Hagerstown Community College Dance Department, Dancin’ Time Studios and Washington County Show Kids.
“I think one thing that’s nice about Holly Fest is that it’s free and open to the public,” Clark said. “People emotionally connect to the entertainment. It’s a free opportunity to get into the theater and see your kid onstage.”
Not every child attends a dance studio that performs at The Maryland Theatre every year, she said.
“It’s one of the few times that the community can see most of the dancers from the area studios all in one performance,” she said, “not just the studio they attend.”
Holly Fest has become part of the holiday fabric of Hagerstown.
“Part of what I hear people saying is, ‘When I was at that studio, I performed in Holly Fest. I remember I was in this dressing room when I was a student and now I’m bringing my daughter,’” Clark said. “That’s a lot of tradition.”
The show offers a wide variety of dance disciplines and song styles from ballet, jazz and hip-hop to lyrical, contemporary and baton and twirl. While some studios have performed in the event for years, others are just jumping on board.
“It’s a very diverse show for sure. It really runs the gamut. There are all ages from little kids up to serious dancers ready to go to college. And this year we even have dancers from (Hagerstown Community College) too,” Clark said.
Kelsy Rupp, director of the HCC Dance Company, said the group will perform a piece called “Home for the Holidays” choreographed by teaching artist Nicole Ruark. Rupp said the event looks to be “a really fun” showcase of talent.
“While I am planning a performance calendar, I always look for ways to connect and perform within our community,” Rupp said. “It is really at the core of not only our dance department at HCC but the community college as a whole. Our dancers and myself included are very excited to be participating in our first Holly Fest and hope to keep it a tradition for our department.”
Local TV and radio personality Lou Scally will emcee the event. Each dance group has no more than eight minutes on stage. Some do one or two longer pieces, while others opt for a few shorter ones.
“We get some large groups, like Fresh Academicz. They’ll have about 40 kids,” Clark said. “It’s a tight schedule for the dancers. We try to get them in and get them out to free up the dressing rooms for the next group. Then they come up and watch the rest of the show.”
The format allows dancers to observe and learn from what others are doing.
“It’s a nice way to foster a spirit of camaraderie. We try not to make it competitive, but to support what other students are doing and learning in their studios and schools,” she said.
Christkindl Markt with local artisans selling handcrafted goods at University Plaza will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There also will be food vendors peddling German beer, Gluhwein, Bratwurst and other treats.
“It’s not Best Buy where you are standing in line to buy your big TV. It’s shopping outdoors for hand-crafted, cool, unique gifts you didn’t know you needed to get for your best friend,” Clark said. “And then you can stop into Holly Fest for a lovely opportunity to celebrate our youth in a holiday setting.”
City Center tree lighting festivities including live music by Hub City Wind and Brass, photos with Santa and a horse drawn wagon ride will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Area restaurants and churches will donate hot chocolate and popcorn. At 6 p.m., Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey will light the tree at Public Square.
“The tree lighting will be awesome this year,” Clark said. “We have invested in some new decorations and we are having some help from the community in decorating. It’s going to be great.”
If you go...
What: Holly Fest
When: Saturday, Nov. 30, at 1:30 p.m.
Where: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown
Contact: Visit mdtheatre.org, call 301-790-2000 or visit Holly Fest on Facebook
What: Christkindl Markt
When: Saturday, Nov. 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 1, from noon to 4 p.m.
Where: University Plaza, 50 W. Washington St., Hagerstown
Cost: Admission is free. Prices vary for concessions and merchandise.
Contact: Go to 3rd Annual Christkindl Markt 2019 - Main Street Hagerstown on Facebook or online to mainstreethagerstown.org
What: City Center Tree Lighting with Santa, live music, popcorn and hot chocolate
When: Saturday, Nov. 30 from 4 to 6 p.m.
Where: Public Square, City Center, Hagerstown
Contact: Go online to hagerstownmd.org or call 301-739-8577 ext. 116