WIESBADEN, Germany - As the person in charge of the switch that would turn on the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden holiday tree of 2012, Joe Harris had his work cut out for him.
Well before the appointed time for the tree lighting, children started lining up to pull on the rope that would turn the switch on. Lighting the Serbian Pine was the job of children this year, and they were eager to take it on. Harris' job, however, was to keep them from pulling it too soon.
At one point, Harris was in a tug-of-war with a long line of children to keep the switch from turning on the lights too soon. "Whoa! Whoa!" he called out, pulling back the rope with all his might. "We still have a few moments to go."
Shortly thereafter, not only had Santa Claus arrived, but the appointed time for the holiday tree lighting. Harris gave the word and the children pulled on the rope and turned on the tree lights. The crowd clapped and oohed at the white lights on the tree.
Timothy Davison, 8, who had the honor of being the first at the line of rope pullers, said it felt good to celebrate Christmas by helping to light the tree.
Harris, chief of community special events at U. S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden's Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said an estimated 1,600 people attended the Nov. 30 event, which took place at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center.
The event included German and American children singing holiday songs, a visit from Santa Claus so children could sit on his lap, food, a bouncy castle and dancing presentations from the SKIES Unlimited dance classes. The Wiesbaden Middle School band played as well.
This was the first year the garrison has held the event at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center, and it was such a success that the garrison will hold it at the center from now on, said Dr. Robert Schloesser, USAG Wiesbaden's director of FMWR.
"I'm so pleased with the turn out," Schloesser said.
Col. David Carstens, garrison commander, said the tree lighting was fantastic and the great amount of community support for the event impressed him. Employees from both FMWR and the Directorate of Public Works did a great job to make the event a success, he said.
"I'm raising the victory flag on this one," Carstens said.
The only way the tree lighting could have been better was if all the garrison's depoyed Soldiers were home to be there with their families, Carstens said.
Family members were equally enthusiastic about the event. "I think it's absolutely fabulous," said Karen Gueye, who attended with her two children. "…They always to a great job.
 Gueye said she thought having the children pulling the rope to light the lights was the best idea.
Bennie Gueye, 5, who sat on Santa's lap to tell him what he wanted for Christmas, compared the way he felt at the event to how excited he gets when it snows out. "Yay!" he said.
Gueye said he wanted slime for Christmas. "Slime. Lots of slime," he said.
"Everything he asks for is slime related," explained his mother, Karen Gueye.