UT Santa Visits UTSI for Giant Christmas Tree Lighting

Friday, December 7, 2007
Writer: Shanna Relford
news@utsi.edu

UT Santa Visits UTSI for Giant Christmas Tree Lighting

University of Tennessee Space Institute students, employees, Support Council members and their families had a fun-filled kick-off to the Christmas season on Nov. 30 during the 2nd Annual UTSI Christmas Tree Lighting. The UT Santa donned his orange and white for the occasion and entered the main lobby to the tune of “Here Comes Santa Claus” sung by the crowd. The jolly orange elf then bent his ear to listen to the Christmas wishes of the many children at the event and posed for photos with them.

Several Christmas carols were sung by the group, led by UTSI Computer Services Manager Richard Gulley on guitar. UTSI student Will Robinson read Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to wide-eyed youngsters anxious to hear the part about the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes that day.

At dusk, the time was right to light the tree, and American City Bank President Troy Martin pressed that magic button, turning the lobby into a dazzling display of Christmas spirit. UT Associate Vice President and UTSI Chief Operating Officer Dr. Don Daniel again thanked Martin and American City Bank, whose generous donation last year allowed for the centerpiece of the event, the 20-ft Christmas tree.

It took numerous staff members, led by Barbara Birdsong to assemble and decorate the massive tree. Ms. Birdsong said more than 10,000 small lights and over 500 other decorations dressed the tree, with the addition of many angel ornaments this year. As part of the angel theme for the tree this year, UTSI faculty and staff members brought in angel ornaments in honor of or in memory of their loved ones. The finished effect is well worth the group effort, as the glittering lights shine brightly through the lobby’s window walls at night, and the tree will remain lit throughout this Christmas season and can be seen from the circle in front of the lobby.

Special guests to the event included Rep. Judd Matheny and Ms. Elwanda Vibbert of Tullahoma. The UT Santa, one of the real Santa Claus’ many helpers, is otherwise known as Morris Mills, a Copperweld employee from Molino in Lincoln County.

UT SANTA—With a hearty “Ho Ho Ho,” the UT Santa entered the main lobby of the University of Tennessee Space Institute for the Christmas Tree Lighting on Nov. 30. Every boy and girl watched for the twinkle in his eye and the jiggle of his belly and anxiously awaited their turn to whisper their Christmas wishes. A close friend of the real Santa Claus, the UT Santa keeps the North Pole up to date on the Christmas lists of Tennessee children. This orange and white elf is otherwise known as Morris Mills, a Copperweld employee from Molino in Lincoln County. –UTSI Photo by Shanna Relford

 

TIME TO LIGHT THE TREE—American City Bank President Troy Martin, shown left, pushed the magic button to light the 20-ft Christmas tree during the 2nd Annual UTSI Christmas Tree Lighting on Nov. 30. It was a generous donation from American City Bank last year that allowed the purchase of the stunning centerpiece. Shown with Mr. Martin just before the lighting are special guest Ms. Elwanda Vibbert of Tullahoma, and Dr. Don Daniel, UT Associate Vice President and UTSI Chief Operating Officer. –UTSI Photo by Shanna Relford

UTSI CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING—UTSI faculty, staff and friends all had a great time gathering around the giant 20-ft Christmas tree in UTSI’s main lobby for the 2nd Annual UTSI Christmas Tree Lighting on Nov. 30. The event included storytelling, tree-decorating, singing carols, refreshments and a visit with special guest, UT Santa. –UTSI Photo by Shanna Relford

PICTURES WITH SANTA—Kids weren’t the only ones who wanted their pictures made with the UT Santa at this year’s UTSI Christmas Tree Lighting. Shown here with Santa are special guest Ms. Elwanda Vibbert of Tullahoma, and Dr. Don Daniel, UT Associate Vice President and UTSI Chief Operating Officer. –UTSI Photo by Laura Horton

DECORATING THE TREE—Before the 20-ft Christmas tree was lit, the children of UTSI faculty and staff finished decorating the lower limbs. Shown hanging ornaments on the tree, (front to back), are Riley Morris, youngest son of UTSI Distance Education Coordination Penny Morris, and Jacob Partin and Austin Bradford, Riley’s friends.
–UTSI Photo by Shanna Relford

STORYTELLING—All the children and the young at heart gathered around to hear the tale of “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” read by UTSI student Will Robinson, while they tasted some of the yummy treats that were available at the tree lighting event.  –UTSI Photo by Shanna Relford

PETTING THE DEER—While waiting on UT Santa to arrive, these youngsters decided to check out the deer decorations—all lit up and bending down to graze, these decorations must have looked pretty magical to these little guys. Shown from left to right are Jacob Partin, Charlie Relford, son of UTSI Public Relations, Alumni Affairs and Development Coordinator Shanna Relford, UTSI Distance Education Coordinator Penny Morris and her littlest boy Riley Morris. –UTSI Photo by Shanna Relford