The yearly event drew a crowd of about 500 to the marina.
By JOSH ECHT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CLARK, Pa. -- Christmas arrived five months and two days early for 7-year-old Jasmine Day, a first-time participant in the "Christmas in July" celebration at RC's Marina on Shenango Lake on Saturday.
"I love the costumes and want to come back," she said, showing off her doll and looking at rows of motorboats festooned with Christmas garland and colored lights.
"It's Christmas, except without the snow," her mother, Crystal, said.
The Farrell residents, along with about 500 others, celebrated "Christmas in July" at RC's to honor leukemia victim Randy Cunningham, whose family bought the marina in 1979.
"Randy died in 1973 and we felt we had to do something special for him," said Reda Cunningham, Randy's sister. "He had a love of boats."
The festivities have been held annually since 1979, she said, except for three years when flooding canceled the event. The family had previously held a square dance in Brookfield in memory of Randy to raise money for leukemia care.
It began when boater Roger Smith decided to put Christmas lights on the marina's dock."He had seen other places do similar 'Christmas in July' celebrations and we decided to use that theme for our celebration," Cunningham said.
Saturday's celebration featured a visit from Santa Claus, a Chinese auction with a $500 grand prize, community dinner, dance and fireworks at dusk.
"Proceeds from the auction and other events go to a local chapter of the American Leukemia Society," Cunningham said. "We want to give area children with leukemia [the chance] to have the best of care."
A tradition of the celebration, she said, is the arrival of Santa Claus and his elves on a pontoon boat. The first 200 children received a small gift from Santa and got to sit on his lap.
Some participants welcomed the tradition the festival brings and return yearly.
Masury resident Stacey Johnson has not missed a celebration so far.
"I've come here ever since I was born," she said.
Johnson said she used to hand out bags of candy as one of Santa's helpers. She also said she hit the pi & ntilde;ata when the celebration still featured children's games. Her mother, Pam, works in the marina office.
"She worked the raffle table today, though," Johnson said.
The boats attracted Josh McLusky, 14, of West Middlesex, to the celebration for the first time.
"The boats definitely stand out," he said, pointing to a motorboat draped with Hawaiian and tropical-themed Christmas decorations. Josh heard about the festival from a friend, whose family keeps a boat docked at the marina.
Hubbard resident Ben First and his wife, Lorraine, camp at nearby Shenango Lake campground and discovered the celebration four years ago.
"It's a great place to take your family," Ben First said.
First brought his granddaughter, Ashley Westfall, 7, to the celebration.
"It's a nice place to bring her," Lorraine First said. "Several friends of ours at the nearby campground found out about it."
Cari Angermeier of nearby Reynolds showed up to try to win a gift basket from the raffle table.
Last year, Angermeier's son, Kaiden, won a children's basket full of prizes and gift certificates from local businesses.