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Santa makes annual stop in Ligonier Friday

| Friday, Nov. 23, 2012, 12:00 p.m.
Tom Donchez of Ligonier, with his wife Nancy Donchez (not pictured) puts ribbons and garland on light posts in the area of the Diamond. Donchez and other volunteers decorated the Diamond last week in preparation of Santa's arrival at 6:30 p.m. Friday. November 17, 2012 in Ligonier. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Santa Claus will make his annual visit to Ligonier 6:30 p.m. Friday riding on a sleigh led by a team of white Percheron draft horses.

The Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce Santa Arrival and Diamond Lighting event will mark the start of the holiday season in the Valley.

“It has been years since Santa has arrived on a sleigh pulled by horses,” said Holly Mowrey, Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce director. “There is a lot to be thankful for this holiday season in Ligonier. Our wonderful town continues to attract an amazing community of artists, chefs, business owners and wonderful tourists.”

The Ligonier Valley High School marching band will usher Santa along East Main Street to Town Hall where he will greet a waiting crowd, some there to continue or create a family holiday tradition.

Miss Ligonier, Phebe Cornell, and her court, Michaela Long and Jeannie Markosky, will also participate in the event along with area Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.

Local TV anchorman Bill Brown and Mayor Ormond “Butch” Bellas will help Santa flip the switch to turn on the lights around the Diamond.

“The holiday season is a wonderful time to be in Ligonier to see Santa Claus and all the shops decorated for the Christmas,” he said. “When the lights come on the people are so are excited to see Diamond lit for first time. There is a lot of cheering and clapping going on at the moment.”

Following the lighting ceremony, Santa will greet children in the community room of Town Hall.

Ligonier's specialty stores and eateries will be open for shopping and dining.

Vintage Christmas cartoons will be shown in the Ligonier Town Hall auditorium. This event will be presented by Ron Adams of The Valley AM 1620, Ligonier's radio station.

Merchant window raffle items will be on display at Equine Chic located on the corner of Main and Market streets.

“Local businesses have donated gift baskets and items from their shops for the raffle,” said Mowrey.

Raffle tickets are available at the chamber office or participating merchants. The cost is $2 for one ticket and $5 for three tickets.

“Swing by Ligonier this holiday season. Stay a while to shop and support local businesses,” Mowrey said.

Santa's Mail Box will be placed in front of Town Hall for children to send Christmas wish letters.

The horse-drawn sleigh for Santa's arrival in Ligonier is provided by Misty Haven Carriage of Davidsville, near Johnstown. Sleigh rides around the Diamond will be offered to the public following the lighting ceremony.

Owner Ernie Alwine said he started the business eight years ago.

“We lived on a farm and showed draft horses. A friend had a team of white Percherons,” he said.“I got the idea to trade my Belgian draft horses for them so we could offer carriage rides.”

The Alwines offer a choice of a white carriage popular for weddings, wooden wagon for hay rides and the replica Victorian-style sleigh. The sleigh has vis-a-vis, or face-to-face, seating for four adults and two children comfortably. During the Christmas season the sleigh is decorated in lights, wreaths and plays Christmas music. Alwine said the sleigh has runners but also has wheels so it can run on roadway.

“We can do sleigh rides even when there in not enough snow,” Alwine said. “We use the wheel kit for in-town use. It has the same effect. Everybody likes it.”

Alwine's carriages and horses have participated in several Fort Ligonier Days parades. But, he said this is the first time he will offer rides in Ligonier.

“We will offer a 10- to 12-minute ride around town,” he said.

Cost for the rides is $5 a person.

Alwine will also offer rides during the Townwide Open House on Dec. 1 and 2 and the Ligonier Ice Fest in January.

“This is an historic town, horse-drawn rides go well in towns like Ligonier,” Alwine said.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or

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