COLUMBIA — Columbia residents gathered Friday night to usher in the holiday season.
Members of the community filled the front lawn and driveway of the Shelter Insurance offices at 1817 W. Broadway to witness the annual lighting of the company's 30-foot-tall Christmas tree.
Joe Moseley, the company's vice president of public affairs, said his company has been holding the event for the past 47 years, and it usually draws employees, their families and members of the community.
This year the event featured performances by the West Junior High School choir and band. Shelter works with the junior high school as part of the Columbia Public Schools' Partners in Education Program, a project focused on fostering collaboration between local businesses and schools.
James Melton, the junior high school's choir director of five years, said the students had been practicing since October. They performed several songs, including "Carol of the Bells," a song that Melton said has become a tradition for the choir.
"This is something we look forward to," Melton said. "This year we are really excited because the weather is nicer."
The temperature was about 50 degrees throughout the ceremony.
Moseley said that in previous years the band was not able to play brass instruments because of the cold.
Chuck Schuder, a St. Louis resident, said he was at the ceremony to hear his granddaughter Emily Stoker play the flute in the band.
"Kids playing music is what it's all about," Schuder said.
After the tree's white lights had been lit and the band stopped playing, the night concluded with a visit from Santa Claus.
As 5-year-old Aliyana Cardon-Allen waited with her father, Chris Allen, for a chance to speak with Santa, she couldn't say what she wants for Christmas.
"We are working on our list this week," Allen said.
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