Twinkling lights, a towering Christmas Tree, a horse-drawn carriage and caroling- Sand Creek Country Club transformed its clubhouse into a winter wonderland for people big and small on Wednesday night.
Every year, Sand Creek Country Club hosts their annual Tree Lighting Ceremony to ring in the holidays with family fun- a celebration dating back to 1997.
“This is a big tradition for us,” Kenny Furness, Food and Beverage Operations Manager for Sand Creek, said. “It really brings in the holidays for our members and their families… We have 250 guests tonight, and a solid 70 have been with us since the beginning. Some start as young children and keep coming back with their families today.”
A delicious dinner by the fire, live piano-played holiday tunes and festive decor tied together to add to the magic of the evening. After dinner, everyone gathers around the clubhouse tree to light it up and sing carols together.
“Seeing all of the kids come here with wonderment in their eyes, everyone’s coming in to enjoy each other and ring in the season,” Furness said. “Seeing them gather around the tree and sing, everyone has that twinkle in their eyes.”
Rugby Popa, a member at large of the Sand Creek Homeowners Association, brings his wife, three children and extended family every year to begin their Christmas countdown. He said his three young boys always look forward to the tree lighting ceremony- an excitement that he feels everyone shares on this special evening.
“I think this is really like a second family when we come here,” Popa said. “Everyone knows everyone… My favorite part of the event is where all of the families come together to kick off the Christmas season; the kids gather around and when the Christmas tree lights up everyone goes, ‘Oooooh!’”
Bob Scheller, Club Captain for Sand Creek, said the tree lighting ceremony is just one of the many events the Sand Creek Country Club families gather together for. He joked that often the clubhouse is overrun with tiny people as it was at the tree lighting.
“This is a family club, we are very family-oriented,” Scheller said. “If people think this is a golf club, they’re sadly mistaken. It’s much more than that.”
Other than the tree, the star of the night was Paul the Horse, who has been coming to the club for nine years to give Yuletide rides around the neighborhood. Richard Stephens of Buggies and Things has been a part of the ceremony since the beginning. He said Paul has been a part of many a family’s Christmas cards since he took over the reins for former buggy horse, Bob.
“Everyone loves to pet him and get a picture with him for their Christmas cards,” Stephens said.
While many have been coming to the ceremony for years, Father John of St. Patrick Church in Chesterton enjoyed his first time taking part of the festivities this year.
“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “It’s wonderful to see the joy and excitement, especially for the kids who go to school at St. Patrick’s. This is such a nice event for families.”
As the hustle and bustle of the season starts to hop into full gear, Wednesday night gave families a moment to pause and start this time of year enjoying the best part of Christmas: family.
“It really shows the true meaning of Christmas and the comradery in the community,” Amy Cushway, Director of Food and Beverage, said. “We go the extra mile to create such great memories. I’ve been here 25 years and have worked this event every year, and I still remember the first time when I started.”
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