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Overly's Country Christmas becomes a mob scene

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Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011

Three local entities came together over the weekend to create a special treat for visitors at Overly's Country Christmas.

Saturday night, visitors to the display's Christmas Village were surprised when giant flood lights turned on to illuminate an area where one man began to dance. That one man was soon joined by more and more dancers as they moved in unison to "Ay, Ay, Ay, Its Christmas" by Tonic Sol-Fa. It was a flash mob, the first at the annual Christmas light display held at the Westmoreland County Fair Grounds in Mt. Pleasant Township.

A flash mob is a large group of people, generally drawn together via social media, who meet in a public place and dance or sing in a short performance.

Stephanie Tomasic, Overly's Country Christmas Inc. executive director, said she wanted to help get the word out on the Internet about the charitable Laurel Highlands tourist attraction.

"I saw the tribute to Michael Jackson in Stockholm a couple of years ago and thought that was a great idea and I thought wouldn't this be neat to have happen in Christmas Village," Tomasic said.

Since then, she has looked for dance groups that would be willing to take on the project, to no avail. She had even found what she believed was the perfect song and had gotten permission from the a cappella group to use it for the performance.

One day, a Facebook fan suggested she contact TaMara Swank, a dance faculty member at Seton Hill University.

"This was my first time doing a flash mob and I thought it would be interesting doing it outside in the winter and there is such a wonderful holiday feeling here at Overly's, and I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate that," Swank said.

Approximately 30 dancers from the college and its community dance program participated in two flash mobs, one at 7 p.m. and one at 8 p.m.

Seton Hill University Senior Theater Performance major Breanna Connell, 22, of Connellsville was one of the dancers that night.

"I was just really excited. I've always wanted to be part of something like this, especially since it is for Christmas at Overly's," Connell said. "I would like to do another one. Christmastime is the perfect time to do it. It's just a really cool, interactive thing to do."

Eric Pensenstadler, owner of Video Horizons LLC of Greensburg, donated all of his equipment and services to filming the project for the Internet. Pensenstadler and his crew capture many angles of the two performances with several cameras. A bucket truck was even brought in to take aerial views of the mob.

"I enjoy Christmas a lot. I always decorate the house, kind of like the Griswolds (from the "Christmas Vacation" movie). I have a lot of fun at Christmas. I remember Overly's growing up as a kid. It was very exciting to do this for them," Pensenstadler said.

Tomasic is very grateful to both organizations for coming together to help make her vision for Overly's a reality. "The best part of it has been getting to know these people from these organizations," she said.

Those who would like to see the performance can look for it on both the organization's Facebook page and the YouTube channel overlys1. Tomasic said she is expecting the video to be ready for viewing by Christmas.

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