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Shining over Silverdale

Harry Guay, Santa for the 25th year, waves from the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue fire engine as it leaves the station and heads toward the ceremony.  - Photo by Aaron Managhan
Harry Guay, Santa for the 25th year, waves from the Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue fire engine as it leaves the station and heads toward the ceremony.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

On the count of 10, Silverdale was once again lit up by its brightest holiday beacon. The annual Silverdale Christmas tree lighting ceremony had once again gone off without a hitch.

“You did it again Hank,” a member of the Silverdale Dandy Lions said to Hank Mann-Sykes, the event’s mast of ceremonies yet again.

“Everybody did it, the community did it,” Mann-Sykes replied.

Hundreds gathered in front of American Marine Bank on Silverdale Way Saturday to witness the lighting of one of Silverdale’s most festive pieces of holiday flair. Santa again led the crowd in the annual count-up, the sounds of children singing holiday classics returned to fill the air, but most importantly, it was another season of seeing the community unite behind a common cause.

“Just the spirit of community,” Mann-Sykes said. “This is something that really brings the community together.”

Silverdale’s various service groups united again to put together the event to mark the lighting of the 122-foot tree.

The Dandy Lions will maintain the lights on the tree, with Ken Little and Don McKinney offering to make the ascent. Silverdale Rotary pays for the electrical bill and necessary supplies. The Silverdale Kiwanis provided coffee and cookies, while Santa’s visit was hosted by the Central Kitsap Kiwanis. Gordon Sound provided the sound system and Advanced Rentals is providing the equipment for clearing and maintaining the area around the base of the tree.

“That’s the thing,” said Harry Guay, who’s filled the role of Santa for the event for the past 25 years. “All the service clubs that come together and give the community a focus.”

Boy Scout Troop 1541 led the crowd in the opening flag pledge, followed by Shirley Jenkins’ Brownsville Elementary School Choir, who performed a variety of seasonal classics. That all preceded the heralded arrival of jolly St. Nicholas, or Guay in this case, via Central Kitsap Fire & Rescure fire engine with Kitsap County Sheriff’s escort.

“I used to ride on top,” Guay said. “Not anymore though.”

Guay, a former teacher and administrator, said seeing the kids’ faces when he arrives is always the best part.

“Of course I love the kids anyway being a teacher and principal,” Guay said. “But when you move up you don’t get that contact with the kids.”

But he also admitted there are some ulterior motives.

“My wife, she loves it,” Guay said. “She’s always in the back there supporting it, Mrs. Claus. It’s just a good way of being involved in the community.”

“We used to rent the suit. Six years ago, my wife bought it for $50 off the rental place.”

Like Guay, many dedicate themselves to make this event happen. For Silverdale Kiwanis members Ron Meyers, Kevin Buyer and Bill Lewis, it’s all about being able to help out.

“That’s what we like,” Buyer said. “It’s all about community and making the community a better place.”

“This is why we’re in Kiwanis,” Meyers added.

“We really like it,” Lewis said. “It’s neat. Hopefully it spurs some people on to join.”

For many, the event brought forth memories of past ceremonies.

“It reminds me of my kids when they were little and how excited they were,” Mann-Sykes said, adding that his 19-year-old son, Josh, has attended the event since he was 4 years old.

“The cookies and the hot chocolate,” Josh said when asked of his favorite memories growing up. “The counting down and Santa. That’s been happening forever.”

That family setting is what has continued to draw people in, Mann-Sykes said.

“We have people here who came as little kids,” he said. “I see so many here today with their kids. Most of the people who come have lived here and it’s part of their tradition.”

Linda Burt, whose son Brandon participated in the flag presentation, said while the event was her family’s first, it won’t be their last.

“It’s really cool to come to an event that’s so family friendly,” Burt said. “Just the sense of community. It’s all about getting together as a community.”

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