Hallmark Channel coming to Canonsburg’s Old Fashioned Christmas
The Hallmark Channel often features small towns, places where everybody knows everybody, and neighbors lend a hand, a hug or whatever is needed.
There’s something homey about these areas.
They aren’t fake or pretentious.
Canonsburg, Pennsylvania is one of those spots. Located in Washington County, this location embraces the spirit of togetherness and small town America the Hallmark Channel often looks for.
Well, look no further.
Thanks to a letter from one of the committee members of the annual holiday event to Hallmark, the network is sending a film crew and representatives to the town’s annual Canonsburg’s Old Fashioned Christmas from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1. The theme is “There’s no place like home for the holidays.”
Pam Slay, vice-president and network program publicity and corporate communications, home of Hallmark Channel, operated by Crown Media, says they are thrilled to be a part of this celebration.
“It is wonderful that the people of Canonsburg decided to decorate their town and feel like they are in a Hallmark movie,” says Slay. “They are realizing their dream, and we are honored to be a part of it.”
Slay says a film crew is headed to the town where footage will be taken of interesting places as well as video of many of the day’s events from children’s activities to the parade to the tree lighting. Some of the captured moments will be shown on Candace Cameron Bure’s ’”Christmas Across America” which airs on Dec. 17 on the Hallmark Channel as well as parts will be used for Hallmark promotional spots.
Slay says the network choose to use real towns, most from the U.S. and sometimes Canada.
“We will definitely give Canonsburg some love,” says Slay, who was instrumental in helping acquire a big screen at
the corner of N. Central Ave and Pike St. Guests are encouraged to bring their own chair to watch Hallmark movies including “A Shoe Addict’s Christmas.” There will also be a pop-up shop of Hallmark ornaments, T-shirts and greeting cards and some giveaways while supplies last.
“Pittsburgh is one of our best markets,” Slay says. “This will be our first time in Canonsburg. Christmas is a very real part of telling the story, and we look for areas such as Canonsburg that have the spirit and warmth of the holiday season.”
Since it was announced Hallmark was coming to Canonsburg, the event has grown and people are talking about the area, says Bob Grove, vice president of communications for Comcast Keystone Region who has teamed with Hallmark to help as a sponsor for this event. He says Canonsburg is a terrific slice of Americana and a community that embraces the caring you find in a small town.
“The holidays mean a lot to the people there,” Grove says. “They will do a fantastic job on Saturday. It’s pretty exciting. Just think of how much more it will grow with the connection to Hallmark. And it goes to show you never know until you ask.”
And committee member Jean Scarsellato of Canonsburg asked. She sent an email to Hallmark and received a quick response. Within five hours of posting the connection to Hallmark on the event’s Facebook page the number of shares and likes and comments were overwhelming, says Canonsburg Mayor David H. Rhome.
Having their community highlighted by Hallmark is a dream come true for committee members R.T. Bell and Sophia Bell of Canonsburg. R.T Bell is a former Canonsburg police chief and couple travels to the Bethlehem, Pa every year where there is a huge Christmas celebration.
“We thought why can’t Canonsburg be like that?” R. T. Bell says. “We decided we really wanted to do it up this year. Our previous event was boring, and if you don’t go all out you won’t get people to come.”
So he and the mayor and members of the borough and the local chamber of commerce had a town meeting and the volunteers and interest in helping blossomed.
Kim Cecchine, administrative assistant for the borough, who handles many of the decorations, says without volunteers there is no way this event happens.
Rhome says he wants the town to become a destination this time of year like it is for the annual Fourth of July parade and the Octoberfest event held there.
The event will take place along Pike St. starting with a live tree sale beginning at 10 a.m. and for every tree purchased one will be donated to a family in need thanks to Andrew Andronas and his company Blue Star USA.
There will be a holiday market of close to 40 craftors organized by committee member Lisa Scarnazzi.
There will be children’s games and the Girl Scouts will be collecting for Toys for Tots. Food trucks will be parked all day selling a variety of menu items.
The Christmas parade begins at 5 p.m., followed by characters from the movie “Frozen,” and a live Nativity until 8 p.m. Guests can get a picture taken with Santa Claus from 5:30 to 8 p.m. and drop a letter into a nearby mailbox for what you want him to bring you on Christmas. There will be old-fashioned photo opportunities in front of a red pickup truck.
Free horse drawn carriage rides will take place from 6 to 8 p.m.
The tree lighting is at 6:30 p.m. Most of the businesses, many who donated to the event, will have their storefronts illuminated with white lights as will 28 trees along the street be lit.
“This is a family in Canonsburg,” R.T. Bell says. “We all work together. And we want to keep it growing and growing every year.”
When you enter Canonsburg, a town of 9,500, you will see a 40-foot illuminated tree owned by Sarris Candies – a staple in Canonsburg. With the help of LUM Electric and Sarris Candies owner Bill Sarris, the tree now has a power source and is filled with lights and ornaments. The tree is special because Sarris’ late father, Frank, planted it many years ago so cars would turn wide enough to keep them from ending up on the nearby train tracks.
“You never know what is going to happen and who is going to see this now that Hallmark is involved but the hope is people will see Canonsburg and want to open a business here,” says Sarris. “I love it here. I grew up here. Everyone is family here.”
They really are, agrees Rhome.
“Canonsburg is a community that is very friendly and family oriented,” says Rhome. “It is my hope that through events such as Old Fashioned Christmas that we bring the spirit of Christmas through fellowship back to our community and hopefully spread love and friendship throughout America by being an example to others.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.