Soldiers and their families were rocking around the Christmas tree at Fort Drum, as hundreds gathered outside Hays Halls Dec. 2 for the annual Holiday Celebration and Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Upon arriving, attendees were greeted by horse-drawn carriages. While inside a heated tent, guests could snack on cookies, sip on some hot cocoa and watch a 'Charles Dickens' trunk show. Santa was also in attendance, handing out books to the children.
Although it was snowing and the weather was in the mid-twenties, it did not stop the celebration.
"We didn't know what to expect," said Jennifer Berry, Family and MWR special event coordinator. "You have colder temperatures and snow, but here in the North Country, people just come out."
"The community here is fantastic with any event that we have," Berry continued. "When you have Santa and carriage rides and hot cocoa, it draws people, and that's what we wanted."
In fact, as the sun began to set and the temperature steadily dropped, lines continued forming for the carriage rides and children rolled around in the snow. Nothing was going to put a damper on this annual celebration.
"It's awesome," said 1st Lt. Spencer Zeyfang, a Soldier with 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. "Last Christmas I wasn't able to be here because of deployment, but it's nice that we have these events where we can come together and be a family and get into the Christmas cheer."
Zeyfang said that his favorite part was watching his little one interact with Santa, even though she was a little shy.
Finally, the moment everyone had been waiting for arrived as Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, commanding general of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division (LI), took his place at the podium, attendees began making their way outside.
While Mennes made his remarks, people continued to gather around the 39-foot tree.
"If you look closely there's a 10th Mountain patch in the middle of the star on top, representing our great Division," said Mennes.
Jeff Fox, an illustrator with Fort Drum Public Works, who's responsible for the stained glass 10th Mountain crest on the front of Hays Hall, also crafted the unique star atop the Christmas tree.
"I am impressed every day with the spirit you guys have, this community we have, and we're so happy to be with you tonight and to celebrate that," Mennes said.
After a rousing countdown, the tree was lit.
"We cannot be more thankful for the turnout and all the pieces falling into place," said Berry. "We look forward to doing it again next year."