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W.Va. Gov. Justice: ‘Nothing more warming than a young child’s smile’

By RUSTY MARKS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — As it rained, Benjamin Lacau, Robert Freeman and William Turman, all members of Cabell Midland High School’s jazz band, stood in a huddle on a landing at the state Capitol in Charleston Tuesday awaiting the Joyful Night celebration to begin.

“I wish it would snow,” said Turman, as rain dripped off the end of his nose.

Gov. Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice listen to the Appalachian Children’s Chorus sing at the state’s annual tree lighting ceremony in Charleston.
(State Journal photo by Rusty Marks)

“That would be festive,” Lacau agreed.

On the south steps of the Capitol building, the rest of the Cabell Midland marching band and majorettes stayed in the spirit of the season despite the chilly rain. They weren’t going to let something like rain spoil the annual the lighting of the official state Christmas tree.

A storm front starting about 5 p.m. Tuesday blew through Charleston, just in time to thoroughly soak everybody getting ready for the annual event, which was set to begin at 5:30 p.m.

The high school band played and the Appalachian Children’s Chorus — wrapped in the dubious protection of multi-colored plastic ponchos — sang anyway, to the rain-muffled but enthusiastic applause of parents and several dozen families who braved the weather for the ceremony.

“We’ve been to this several times,” said Andy Hill, a Charleston resident who came to the tree-lighting ceremony with his wife, Jennifer, and their children Emma, 8, Andrew, 6, and Elise, 3. All stood huddled under various sizes of umbrellas.

“They say it’s their favorite tradition,” Jennifer Hill said. “I guess we’ll see after tonight.”

“It’s fine as long as we can see Santa Claus,” said Emma.

Lighting of the tree was scheduled for 6 p.m. By the time Gov. Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice arrived, the rain had calmed to a light drizzle.

The governor acknowledged the rainy weather but reminded those in attendance that there was plenty to be thankful for.

“There is probably nothing more warming than a young child’s smile,” the governor said, before informing the crowd that his daughter was headed to the hospital to have his first grandchild. The announcement was met with applause.

Justice said economic conditions are improving in West Virginia, and once more reminded the crowd there was much to be thankful for. “Just think of all the blessings that each and every one of us has,” he said.

The Justices then grabbed the handle of big wooden power switch and flung it downward to activate the lights on the state Christmas tree, a 24-foot, 15-year-old native species donated by Walker and Rita Pauley of Elkview.

The tree came to life, parents took selfies and the crowd slowly dispersed. Santa was waiting in the state Culture Center, student ornament contest winners had to be announced and the governor and first lady were going to read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” at the Governor’s Mansion.

Staff Writer Rusty Marks can be reached at 304-415-1480 or email at [email protected]

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