Marion- Imagine the surprise on Dr. Brian S. Merritt’s face recently when he answered the phone in his office and a voice came on the line saying, “Please hold for Santa Claus.” Merritt wears a lot of hats as President of McDowell Technical Community College and gets an odd assortment of calls from time-to-time, but this one stood out. The caller id said, “Santa’s Workshop, North Pole.”
“I was sure it was one of my colleagues at another community college playing a joke on me, like maybe Dr. John Gossett, former MTCC President, who is now President at AB Tech in Asheville,” said Merritt. “We have a friendly rivalry, but if it was a prank call, he, or someone, had gone to a lot of trouble to get their caller Id to say Santa’s Workshop. But then, sure enough, Santa came on the line!”
It turns out that Santa had seen McDowell Tech’s large, outdoor Christmas tree on top of the college’s Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center last year as he, Rudolph and the other reindeers were making their deliveries at Christmas. “Santa wanted to know if he could come visit with all of the boys and girls in McDowell County this year when we had our annual Christmas tree lighting so he could get their Christmas wish lists in person and take photos with them. Of course, we said ‘Yes!’”
“So,” said Merritt, “we decided to kick it up a notch with this year’s Christmas tree lighting, which begins at 5:30 pm on Thursday. Our Student Government Association (SGA) is sponsoring candy canes and hot chocolate in the conference room at Universal, and kids will get a chance to write Santa a letter and give him their letter in person. One of our staff members will take digital photos of the kids telling Santa what they want for Christmas, and we’ll upload those photos to Facebook the next morning.
Afterwards, folks will gather in the parking lot for a reading of a Christmas story by one of our SGA Officers, followed by the finale—the lighting of our giant Christmas tree atop the Universal Building. Who knows, with weather expected to be in the low 40’s Thursday evening, it’s possible we might even see a bit of that magical white stuff to kick off the Holiday season!”
The large outdoor Christmas tree will stay lit throughout the Christmas season and will be lit daily from dusk until dawn. “With all of the turmoil in the world, economic hardship and so forth, we want this tree to be a symbol of peace and joy to remind people to cultivate love, joy and peace in their hearts and to share those things with others at every opportunity they get,” said Merritt.
The event begins at 5:30 pm on Thursday evening at the Universal Advanced Manufacturing Center, 634 College Drive, Marion, NC. Candy canes and hot chocolate will be provided.
Children (and children at heart!) can write letters to Santa and have pictures taken with him.
A Christmas story, chosen by the college’s SGA, will be read just before the
Christmas tree lighting at 6:00 pm.