(12/6) The Christmas season and its first snowfall arrived on the same morning Saturday in Thurmont.
The seventh annual Christmas in Thurmont celebration opened at 9 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting by Mayor Marty Burns in Mechanicstown Park and the kickoff of a daylong prize giveaway and Christmas present drawing project.
"I like the snow; it's a sign that Christmas has started," Burns said, smiling. "I don't think it's going to keep anyone away."
As children placed their names in a box to be eligible to win prizes like an Xbox or new bicycle, their parents are handed forms with the names of 24 local business they may visit and where they may receive a stamp to be eligible for the adult grand prizes, including jewelry and a GPS system, at the end of the afternoon.
Last year, said Thurmont Main Street manager Nancy Poss, an estimated 400 people took part in the event -- some local visitors, some out-of-towners, who come for the shopping and a chance to win or earn an early present.
Besides the snow, Poss noted another reason participation may be down this year. The local high school football team, Catoctin, was playing for the state championship at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, and many in the community were traveling to root the team on.
The Catoctin Cougar marching band had been scheduled to perform at the Christmas event, but had to cancel after the team won its state semifinal game last week.
"We lost our band when they got on the bus this morning for Baltimore," Poss said. "And we lost Frosty the Snowman and the several elves as well who were going to the game."
Nonetheless, at 10 a.m., Santa Claus showed up on schedule, cheerful as ever behind his large white beard. He was dressed in bright red holiday gear and hat, black boots, with an oversized belt stretching over his ample girth.
After waving hello to a passing mailman, whom Santa Claus seemed to know -- asking if there were any more letters for him -- Santa Claus set down a large bag of gifts and began setting up his own tripod and camera for pictures with kids.
Liam Bussey, 4, on hand with his mom, Candy, smiled and said he'd never met Santa Claus before, and was one of the first children to get in line.
He and his mother had already begun visiting local shops and collecting store stamps in town before Santa Claus had arrived, including the Catoctin Mountain Train and Hobby shop.
"We've never done this before, it's the first time and with the snow falling it's seems like a perfect day to come and walk around downtown and visit the shops," Candy Bussey said.