This year’s Christmas Festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but the tree lighting portion went on, and a couple of VIPs still managed to make an appearance.
In lieu of a festival, which would typically draw in hundreds of military families, Fort Gordon invited everyone to view a tree lighting ceremony at Barton Field’s amphitheater from the comforts of home while being livestreamed to the Fort Gordon Facebook page Dec. 11.
“Everyone knows the circumstances of the world today, so there’s no need to go into that,” said Larry Coggins, Recreation Division chief, DFMWR, and emcee for the ceremony, said from the stage’s podium.
Coggins was joined by several members of the Fort Gordon command team, MWR, Directorate of Emergency Services, and several other directorates that were key to making the event a success.
Deputy Command Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Tommie Pickens, delivered an invocation requesting that the community be extra-mindful of those deployed during this holiday season.
“We ask that the lights of this season reminds us to also be lights in the world that is so often a place of darkness … and we remember our service men and women who are in harm’s way right now,” Pickens prayed.
Then instead of a live performance by the Garden City Chorus, viewers were treated to a pre-recorded video of the singers on a large screen that featured images of past Fort Gordon Christmas festivals. Following the musical collaboration, Fort Gordon Garrison Col. Shaw Pick took to the stage with a message of optimism.
“We’ve had to modify, obviously, how we do things, but despite all that, we’re here – and that’s kind of the message I want to deliver is that we have not stopped doing things … we are working through our challenges with COVID-19, we have adapted and carried on, and hopefully next year we’ll have our friends in person and our entertainment in person,” Pick said.
Echoing what Pickens said earlier about remembering those in harm’s way, Pick said the holiday season is also a time to remember those who lost loved ones and whose lives were given in the name of freedom.
“We are grateful for their selfless service, and we pray that America’s light will shine more brightly and stronger than ever,” Pick said.
Despite 2020 being a year that was filled with an array of unexpected challenges, Pick said that he and the command team were proud of the Fort Gordon community.
“Every single Soldier, civilian, [and] contractor has performed superbly during a most challenging of years. You have all remained laser-focused on the critical mission of forging and projecting cyber power for this nation,” he said. “I wish you and your families all the best. I want you to take care of yourselves and each other.”
Before closing out the ceremony, Pick and Fort Gordon Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Brent Smith lit the Christmas tree, signifying Fort Gordon’s start to the holiday season. Santa and Mrs. Claus followed with a brief appearance onstage then boarded a firetruck for travel through Fort Gordon neighborhoods. With the help of DES and the Public Affairs Office, citizens were able to track the Clauses’ location via real-time updates on the Fort Gordon Facebook page.