SWEET CHEER: Century-old tradition continues on Christmas Eve

COLUMBIA CITY — Families lined the Whitley County Courthouse Monday night waiting for candy and oranges.The Columbia City Fire Department has held the tradition of passing out treats to children on Christmas Eve for more than 100 years.Dressed in their Class A uniforms, the firemen greeted children and prepared 550 1-pound bags of candy and an orange to each person. Fire Chief Tom LaRue labeled the tradition as one that “unites the community.” Coming through the line, first-time visitor Joshua Pope, 11, was an out-of-town guest taking advantage of the holiday tradition.“I came here when I was a kid,” said Joshua’s mother, Michelle. “We were here visiting family and I wanted him (Joshua) to experience this.”Throughout the year, firemen work on various fundraisers to raise funds to purchase the candy and oranges. Donations from the community are also accepted.In a previous interview LaRue said, “This is a way the fire department reaches out to the community. I remember watching my dad do this and now I get to be a part of it.”