By Walt Johnson | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — One by one vehicles pulled into the Iron Horse Park parking lot as members of the Fort Carson community came out for the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carsons’ annual tree lighting ceremony Dec. 4, 2020.
The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Matthew W. McFarlane, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, and his wife Kelly; and Command Sgt. Maj. Adam Nash, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, and his wife Erin. The event was moved from its usual spot at the William “Bill” Reed Special Events Center (SEC) due to COVID-19. The park allowed for better spacing and social distancing; with limited attendance the event was still viewed by local community members via Facebook live.
Normally during the annual tree lighting ceremony, crowds would gather around the large Christmas tree outside of the SEC, and enjoy many festivities before the lights turned on and the beginning of the holiday season commenced. This year, however, patrons were not allowed to leave their vehicles. They remained in the parking lot while the 4th Inf. Div. leaders and their spouses started the opening ceremony.
Many post Families braved a semi-chilly early evening to take part in the ceremony that would light the tree and officially kickoff holiday activities on post, according to Sarah Rumpza, event staff team leader; supervisory community recreation coordinator; Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (DFMWR). Rumpza said all precautions were taken to honor the annual event while also making sure people would not be exposed to COVID-19.
“We gave out a limited number of tickets for the event and the Christmas tree giveaway that will take place after the tree lighting ceremony,” Rumpza said. “We have the trees we are giving away today courtesy of Trees for Troops tonight. We also will have winter wonderland here at Iron Horse Park where people can walk through, beginning Dec. 5, 2020, and ending Dec. 12, 2020.”
Even though the night was not as festive as normal, it still could not dampen the spirits of those who were involved. Members of the 4th Inf. Div. Band brass quartet were among the first to arrive at
the venue, and as they set up their instruments they were filled with joy, excitement and anticipation of playing holiday music. Shortly after 5:30 p.m. the parking lot began to fill and the band began playing a collection of holiday music that got toes tapping and spirits soaring in anticipation of the tree lighting.
Garrison Commander Col. Nate Springer and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Kenyatta L. Mack arrived at the venue and spent time talking with members of the band and staff from DFMWR while socially distancing themselves. Shortly after their arrival, Fort Carson leaders were greeted by Charles Dickens’ “Ebenezer Scrooge,” who served as the master of ceremonies for the event.
“I am proud to be here to play a small part in giving back to the men, women and their Families,” Scrooge said. “As we prepare our minds and our hearts for the upcoming holiday season, the Fort Carson Family asks just one thing from you today: Remember to always thank our Soldiers and our entire military Family for protecting our freedom wherever they may serve.”
As Scrooge stepped to the microphone to begin the event, he improvised by having participants honk their horns to cheer. After he welcomed the assembled Family members, Scrooge turned and introduced Col. Mark Stewart, senior mission command chaplain, who gave the invocation address. Scrooge then turned the festivities to McFarlane who excitedly took his turn at the microphone to thank the community for coming out and taking part in the ceremony.
“What an exciting evening,” McFarlane said. “What I like most about this time of the year is the way it focuses on Family and especially our Army Family. It is a time for us to take time to refocus on those who are important to us, our loved ones back home and the people who mean so much to us around this community.
“Although this may look and feel a little different, it is incredibly important that we take time to celebrate this evening and show our loved ones how special they are to us,” McFarlane said. “This year, whether it is virtually or in person, it is especially important to reach out to each other and show compassion to those in need and renew our faith. This pandemic has completely changed the way we live our life, but our Army life does offer a sense of community and Family. This sense of community has been critical to our adapting to the challenging culture and the success of the Mountain Post through the entire year.”
McFarlane thanked everyone for attending, and the DFMWR staff for setting up the event for the community to enjoy.
“This is such an amazing display of holiday spirit, and please join me in a huge round of honking for the (DFMWR) team that put this together,” McFarlane said. “Finally, from Kelly and I, and Sergeant Major Nash and his wife, Erin, we would like to express our gratitude to our Soldiers, civilians, Families and all the members of the awesome Mountain Post community, and the Colorado Springs community for everything you have done and continue to do for the Army, the Mountain Post and each other. We hope everyone stays safe, tests negative, and has a safe and happy holiday season. Steadfast and loyal!”
After the general’s address the special guest of the evening, Santa Claus, rode in on a fire truck with help from the Fort Carson Fire Department — capping off the event.