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Kittanning Light Up Night a celebration of holiday spirit, bittersweet endings

Tribune-Review
| Saturday, November 22, 2014 12:51 a.m.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Trib Total Media
Downtown Kittanning's Market Street is congested with foot traffic during the borough's Light Up Night event. Friday November 21, 2014.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Trib Total Media
Santa tosses a handful of magic snow to kick off Light Up Night in downtown Kittanning on Friday, November 21, 2014.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Trib Total Media
The Citizens Bridge in Kittanning was reduced to one lane all summer and into the fall for refurbishment, but was reopened in time for the holiday Light Up Night celebration in November.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Trib Total Media
Hillary Brown, 34, of Kittanning enjoys more whipped cream than pie as she compete's in the pie eating contest at Kittanning's Light Up on Friday, November 21, 2014.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Trib Total Media
The Kittanning High School band rounds South Jefferson Street onto Market Street during Kittanning Light Up on Friday, November 21, 2014.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Trib Total Media
Ryan Crissman,11, of Ford City and his grandfather, Denny Beer, 66, also of Ford City, watch a train display in a Market Street business storefront during Kittanning's Light Up Night on Friday, November 21, 2014.
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Louis B. Ruediger | Trib Total Media
Tabitha Johns, 8, of Kittanning, gives Santa a hug as he makes his way to NexTier Bank on Market Street during Kittanning's Light Up Night on Friday, November 21, 2014.

For 20 years, Pat Cavanaugh has been part of the musical magic of Kittanning’s holiday season kick-off. But Friday evening, he had the chance to really light up the town.

Cavanaugh, Kittanning High School’s band director, was selected as Light Up Night’s special guest. Along with Mayor Kirk Atwood, he was tasked with flipping the proverbial switches that brought the borough’s illuminated Christmas decorations to life.

“I was proud to do it,” he said. “I stood there waiting for my cue. The snare drum roll, the cymbal crash and Santa’s magic snow.”

This Light Up Night will likely become a special Christmas memory for the veteran music educator. With KHS closing its doors next year to make way for a consolidation of Kittanning and Ford City schools, Friday was the band’s final Light Up Night performance.

“Every year, we choose an honoree who we think is worthy to help Santa light the lights,” said Turney Luke, the Light Up Night organizer who bestowed the tribute upon Cavanaugh.

“He’s always been so generous with bringing the students down to perform at Light Up Night.”

One of those students was particularly keen on the meaning of the Kittanning band’s last Light Up Night.

Senior Toby Johns, 17, of Kittanning reflected on the crowd’s enthusiasm as he waited his turn to play Christmas songs on the fluglehorn, a type of trumpet, outside Turney’s 700 Shop on Market Street.

“I’m going to remember all these people, the streets packed so tight you can’t see down the sidewalk,” he said.

And the packed streets yielded moments made for memories.

A grandfather pulled his two grandchildren in a red wagon bright with colorful twinkling lights. Friends and family huddled together against the November chill, admiring the meticulously decorated windows of Kittanning’s shops. Frosty the Snowman passed out popcorn balls, and hugs, to passersby young and old.

“It’s certainly something to be cherished,” said Lynda Pozzuto, of the Downtown Kittanning group, which organizes Light Up Night. “It’s a big thing when Santa Claus comes to town. And what is grander than seeing Market Street lit up all the way to the courthouse?”

Kate Beranty of Rural Valley and her son, Andrew, 6, waited in line to meet Santa at the St. Vincent DePaul store. Her son, she said, knew Christmas was on its way. And the trip to Kittanning helped to make the beginning of her holiday season bright.

“It’s a real small town feel, and everyone’s really in the spirit. Even with it being cold, everyone’s out,” she said.

A couple thousand turned out for the three-hour celebration, according to Downtown Kittanning President Ray Voller. Between the Kittanning Citizens Bridge opening just the week before and the distinction of having what he speculated to be the first dog sled rides at any Light Up Night, Voller seemed gratified.

“For some reason, it just always seems to work every year,” he said. “It’s small-town Americana. You can go to any mall and sit on Santa’s lap, but you can’t get the small town feel of Kittanning Borough.”

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315, or jmartin@tribweb.com.

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