Winterfest rings in holiday season

The first holiday celebration and tree lighting featured local vendors selling festive gifts, Christmas carolers and a firework show.

Community members gather in the Piazza under a blanket of faux snow to celebrate Winterfest Thursday. Photo by Kate DeSalvo

Chapman got an explosion of holiday spirit Thursday evening as the first Winterfest event opened with a firework show and the blanketing of the Piazza in artificial snow. It was lavishly decorated with holiday wreathes and lights to put approximately 350 attendees in the holiday mood. Free hot chocolate and cookies were provided for attendees as they milled about the Piazza.

The event featured live performances by Chapman’s choir, a reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by professor Michael Nehring and a speech by President Jim Doti.

The Piazza was filled with holiday cheer as local vendors sold Christmas ornaments and stocking stuffers. Christmas music drifted from speakers and the choir serenaded event goers throughout the night.

“Our campus is so beautiful and we want to reach out to the community and have a wonderful holiday party,” Doti said. “I’m amazed how many people came out, but this is what it’s all about.”

Students and faculty worked tirelessly in preparation for the event and still were anxious about how it would turn out.

“Since it’s the first time we’ve done this we really didn’t know how it would pan out,” said Chris Joondeph, Student Government Association (SGA) president. “I think students like it because it puts them in the Christmas spirit and they get free food.”

Dressed as a reindeer, Doti pulled a large sleigh onstage with surprise guest Doy Henley dressed as Santa Claus seated on top. With the help of some enthusiastic young children attending the event, Doti and Henley flipped the switch that lit the Christmas tree named in Henley’s honor.

While Henley and Doti’s costumes surprised some audience members, it was what came next that had attendees roaring and cheering. As Doti finished his rousing speech, a firework show erupted off of the roof of Leatherby Libraries.    “It was beautiful,” said Lisa Boskovich, a graduate student in education. “The sense of unity among the religions and community is amazing.”

After the fireworks, artificial snow rained down on the Piazza as the Chapman choir sang holiday favorites.

While the event was a great opportunity for students to mingle with members of the community and faculty, it also was a chance for Chapman to bolster its reputation by showing a different side of the university.

“Because of some partying incidents and undie-run, the community sometimes gets out of sorts with the university,” said Mary Platt, director of communications and media relations. “There’s a mentality sometimes that we’re an ivory tower and we just want to show that our doors are open.”

Photographer: Kate DeSalvo

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