JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Friends Charnell Day and Sarah Reynolds did their best to round up their children during Friday’s Hometown Christmas Stroll and Light Up Night in downtown Johnstown, but the youngsters’ excitement could barely be contained.

They were dashing from vendor to vendor on Main Street, checking out all the offerings, and at the mention of the Christmas Tree @ Central Park being lit, all five of the kids let out an elated yell.

“It’s a good family experience,” Reynolds said.

This was the first year she and her three children attended, and all of them were happy to be there. Day and her two children were just as excited.

“We love Christmas,” she said.

Hundreds of people from all over packed Main Street from Franklin Street to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s Lee Campus starting at 6 p.m. for the stroll, hosted by the Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership.

Groups weaved in and out of the busy street, stopping to examine the numerous booths, while others visited AmeriServ Financial, 216 Franklin St., to take in Gallery on Gazebo’s “Festival of Trees” in the lobby.

One of the biggest attractions was Santa and Mrs. Claus, who were sitting in a sleigh at the corner of Gazebo Place and Main Street. The line of children and parents waiting to visit the pair stretched almost the length of Central Park.

Everyone moved from Main Street into the park at 8 p.m. for the seventh annual lighting of the tree and musical performance.

“This is a hallmark of what our community can do,” Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership President Melissa Radovanic said after leading the countdown to the light show. Seeing the number of people crowding the park left her a little emotional, she added.

Attendees gathered around the tree for photos while others, such as 9-year-old Hayden Kramer, stared up in wonder at the flashing display.

“It’s really cool,” he said.

Kramer attended the event with his aunt, Faye Straw. He described the experience of watching the tree light up as “exciting, joyful, happiness.”

Kateri and Tom Anders brought their 2-year-old son, Cillian, to the event for some family fun. The couple were also meeting friends downtown and looking forward to seeing the houses in Central Park lit up for the first time this season.

“We want to see everything,” Tom Anders said.

Kateri Anders said it was nice to see the town decorated and festive. The Anders commemorated the evening by getting a photo in front of the giant inflated snowman balloon.

For Ron and Sherry Appley, seeing the amount of people in downtown Johnstown was impressive.

“They should have more things like this,” Ron Appley said.

His wife agreed, adding that she loved seeing the town so active on a Friday night.

Janet Sanders and her husband, Richard, attended the stroll and light up with their family. The group walked from end to end, taking in the festivities.

“We really like it,” Janet Sanders said.

The couple has attended the event before and Janet Sanders said they love seeing the park lit up.

In addition to vendors and organizations handing out goodies, there was also live music at both ends of the stroll. The Conemaugh Valley High School marching band was positioned at the corner of Main and Market streets, entertaining visitors.

“We’re really proud to be part of this,” band director Allen Bixel said.

He added that the group tries to be part of all the parades and events in Johnstown because its members want to support the area.

Jodi Russo, of Epic Eats with Jodi, had a booth set up by Central Park for the same reason. Russo was selling Epicure products.

“I’m a true believer in downtown,” she said. “I just want to support it.”

Joshua Byers is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5054. Follow him on Twitter @Journo_Josh.

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