Hundreds of area residents descended upon the streets of the downtown Rolla on Friday December 1 as the city welcomed a new Christmas tradition – First Night. The evening event took place on Pine Street between Sixth and Tenth streets under a clear sky and a balmy 48 degrees.
Strollers through downtown had a chance to catch carolers singing traditional Christmas hymns outside of PC Technologies on Pine Street and Irish dancers jigging and reeling on Seventh Street while kids young and old toasted marshmallows and warmed their hands over an open-pit fire.

“This is so cool,” said seven-year-old, Julian Betencort of Salem. “Where else can you make smores in the middle of the street of a city.” Many downtown businesses kept their doors open late enticing visitors in with free hot chocolate, apple cider or a chocolate treat. Others feasted on tamales and beans served up from a local food truck parked near Sixth Street.

“We are just getting warmed up,” said ukulele player Justyn Moreland as he and his partner on the
bongos, Brian Taggart churned out Christmas favorites to a captive audience at Sugar Lee's Candy Shop near Sixth Street.

“It is so nice to see so many people here in downtown,” noted Mayor Lou Magdits just minutes before the city's Christmas tree was turned on. “We haven't seen such a vibrant downtown area here in years. While we may lack cold weather and snow, we do not lack the Christmas spirit.”

A collective “ooooh” and “ahhhh” fell over the crowd at around 7:30 pm at as the city's 15-foot Christmas tree was turned on and lit up with colorful lights and homemade decorations. That was followed by the Carol of the Bell and O Tannenbuam by the Rolla Choral Arts Choir under the direction of Jeff Sandquist.

The tree sits in the library plaza, the refurbished spot between the main Rolla Library building and the
children's library. It was decked out in colorful bulbs and decorated with glittering CDs.

“The community Christmas tree is something that we have been wanting to do for years,” Madonna
Woelk of Rolla's Sister City Committee said. “This year the community came together and made it
happen. The tree was donated, the lights and the high-school art club made the decorations.”

After the tree was lit, all were invited to the Christkindle Tent, a block away, for food and a good old
fashioned sing along. Sandquist revved up the growing crowd with a round of“beer-choir” sing alongs.
Complete with its own hymnal, beer was the predominant theme throughout the 45-minute social sing.

The Old Gears finished out the night with some rock n roll from the 1990s under the tent.
“This was great,” said Carol Kapus of Rolla . “What a great way to kick off the Christmas season. I hope the tree lighting can become a regular tradition.”