FORT EUSTIS, Va. (Dec. 9, 2009) -- Three, two, one, pull!

With these words, special guest Tristan Hoskins, a 6-year-old family member, Fort Eustis Garrison Commander Col. Glenn K. Grothe and garrison command Sgt. Major Carolyn Johnson pulled the lever illuminating the post's holiday tree during the installation's 54th annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony Dec. 3 at Seay Plaza.

Soldiers, family members and guests braved the cold damp night to ring in the holiday festivities with singing, hot apple cider and holiday cheer.

The evening was marked with a special sing-a-long featuring Melvina Harrison, an instructional system specialist with the Army Training Support Center, and the Fort Eustis Combined Girl Scouts chorus.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus on a Fort Eustis Fire and Emergency Services fire engine.

The arrival of the Jolly Ol' Elf was almost cancelled due to a snafu at the front gate involving un-stickered reindeer and lack of proper identification for the Claus'. In the spirit of the holiday season, however, Eustis Fire and Emergency Services stepped in and offered to pick up and escort Santa and Mrs. Claus to Seay Plaza.

Amidst clapping and yells of "Hip! Hip! Hooray!" Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived on scene with blaring sirens and flashing lights.

Children squealed with anticipation and rushed to line up for a chance to whisper their hearts' Christmas desires in Santa's ear at the gazebo.

Parents waited patiently as the children spoke with Santa and received a stocking full of treats.

"This is so great and he really enjoyed it," said Capt. Martha Plumley of son, Brian's, reaction to Santa's arrival and visit. The traditional lighting of the installation holiday tree began in 1955 and has been observed each year since.