Monday, November 29, 1999

Christmas Spirit has city singing

Christmas Spirit has city singing
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Special guests add talents to 25th annual ‘Christmas Sing.’
Michael Rudy remembers growing up in a New York-area orphanage in the later 1940s and 1950s, when each year the Kiwanis and other community groups made Christmas special.
Now Rudy, the newly elected Western Kiwanis Club president, is giving back to his community in the same way.

More than 1,200 parents and children packed into the Michigan Theater, anticipating the chance to sing traditional Christmas carols like “Silent Night,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Jingle Bells,” Kiwanis members said.

Performances including the comedy/singing group Three Men and a Tenor, and sing-along time was led by Kiwanis members Jeff Crause and Charlie Phibbs. Also leading the group was Jacqui Colston, this year’s Miss Washtenaw County a University of Michigan junior.

During the event, Lucy Ann Lance of Kool 107 FM walked around the auditorium with a microphone, giving children a chance to spotlight their talent and tell the crowd their name, the school they attend and what they’re hoping for this Christmas.

One science-lover said that he just wanted anything to do with electricity. Pokemon was also a big hit. And one girl shared that since the family dog ran away, she was hoping for a new pet Dec. 25.

But most of all, children anxiously awaited the start of the show-Santa, who made a special visit in downtown Ann Arbor.

After Santa’s arrival on the stage, children got to sit on his lap and each received a candy canee.
“It’s a family activity and there’s not a lot of family activities of this nature,” said Jim Szumko, past president of Kiwanis and current member.

“The kids can squirm and talk and sing,” he said of the free event.

Rudy said the Kiwanis tries to put the children in the spotlight and leave them with good memories. During the pre-show Christmas trimming and while singing all the songs many know by heart, people really began to get into the spirit of the season, group members said.
“This is a community tradition,” said Mayor Ingrid Sheldon, who read “The night Before Christmas” at the event.

“To get grandmas and grandpas; sons and daughters and babies all together is wonderful.”
Four generations of her own family were also present,” Sheldon said.

Outside the theater, children were anxious to get The Three Men and a Tenor’s picture or to go home and write out a Christmas list. A few were humming their favorite songs.
“It was good. I liked ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’ mostly,” said Zach Brooks, 9, of Ann Arbor.

“I sort of liked everything,” said Megan Chu, 6, who hails from Boulder, Colo. Mgan came with her sister, Kristina, 4, and her dad, Jeff Chu, who grew up in Ann Arbor.
Anthony and Michelle Garcia, 6-year-old twins, have been coming to the Christmas sing for five years.

“I liked ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ Anthony Garcia said.
Anne Garcia, their mother and an Ann Arbor resident, said she looks forward to the Christmas Sing each year.

“It is special because I see people from all over Ann Arbor--people from (my children’s soccer and basketball teams, church. It makes it fun,” she said.

Garcia added that the event is not just for people of one religion, but that anyone can enjoy the songs and the community spirit.

That was echoed by the Kiwanis members.

I just want the Ann Arbor community to know that we’re sp happy they bring the children to this event” Rudy said.

“We’re just delighted that they would help us to keep the special holiday (spirit) alive.”

Photo Caption: Eighteen-month-old Charlie Bassett-Kennedy of Ann Arbor checks out the decorations on a Christmas tree in the lobby of Michigan Theater Sunday afternoon. The tree was decorated to visitors to the 25th Annual Western Kiwanis Christmas Sing.

Photo Caption Two: Jacqui Colston, Miss Washtenaw County 1999, leads the audience in one of the songs Sunday during the 25th Annual western Kiwanis Christmas Sing at Michigan Theater.

Photo Credit: Elli Gurfinkel
Originally published Monday, November 29, 1999