A crowd of eager families gathered around Fort Belvoir's holiday tree to celebrate the start of the season, Dec. 2. (Photo by Cameron Delean, InsideNoVa)

Hundreds turn out for Fort Belvoir Tree Lighting

Fort Belvoir kicked off the Christmas season with the installation’s annual tree-lighting and Winterfest celebration Saturday. Hundreds of families celebrated the start of the season with bounce houses, laser tag, face painting, a candy cannon shoot, train rides, a gingerbread house contest, snowball fights and more.

Just after sunset, the crowd made its way to the towering holiday tree just outside of Garrison Headquarters to witness the tree-lighting ceremony.

The Catholic Children’s Choir performed Christmas carols while the guests of honor, Santa and Mrs. Claus, sat in the front row. Col. Joseph V. Messina, Garrison commander, shared some words, commemorating the success of the celebration.

“I think we can all agree that this has been a truly wonderful day. When I looked out here last year, I got a little bit choked up because I hadn't seen the community come together like this previously. And tonight, this goes above and beyond what we saw last year,” Messina said. “I can think of no better way to put a bow on Winterfest than lighting this beautiful tree and starting the holiday season.”

Messina said each element of the 19-foot tree represents a different aspect of the installation’s wishes for the holiday season.

“We add these lights and shiny ornaments to bring a sense of hope. With this switch, we are spreading joy and light and love through our community. And up at the top the star that symbolizes the north and with it, peace on earth and goodwill towards everyone,” Messina continued.

Jordan and Jason Collins prepare to flip the switch to light the Fort Belvoir holiday tree during Winterfest ceremonies, Dec. 2.

The crowd chanted a countdown before the switch to light the tree was flipped, marking the start to the holiday season at Fort Belvoir.

“My hope for you is that this holiday season brings you joy and happiness. I want to thank each of you for all you do to help make Fort Belvoir the greatest installation in the world, and I firmly believe that. People first, Army Strong, Happy Holidays,” Messina added.

By Cameron Delean, InsideNoVa