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Oswego Considers Putting Tree Lighting Event In Youth Bureau’s Hands

OSWEGO, NY – At its meeting Tuesday night, the Physical Services Committee heard a proposal regarding a new direction for the city’s annual holiday tree lighting ceremony.

Councilor Shawn Walker said he received a request from Brian Chetney, director of the Oswego City/County Youth Bureau, regarding a proposal to take charge of the Children’s Tree Lighting ceremony. The event has been in the hands of a committee of volunteers for more than a decade.

Santa Claus greets a group of youngsters at a previous ceremony at City Hall.
Santa Claus greets a group of youngsters at a previous ceremony at City Hall.

“I received a call a while back from the City Youth Bureau and they wanted to know if they could take over the Christmas tree lighting ceremony,” Walker said. “And, I said I would bring it up for discussion.”

“Basically, at budget time, it was brought to my attention as to what additional responsibilities could the Youth Bureau take on,” Chetney explained. “I went back to my staff and challenged them to step up to the plate. Jennifer (Losurdo of the Youth Bureau) has been in communication with Shawn to take on additional responsibilities in the city.”

Chetney added that his department doesn’t want “to step on anybody’s shoes” or “push anybody out in any way whatsoever.”

How his department would be involved is “unknown at this time,” that’s why he wanted to bring it up for discussion at a public meeting, he said.

“We are, as a city department, ready and willing to step up and take on more responsibility whatever it need be,” he said. “Jennifer, being a city employee, has some fantastic ideas. She’s working hard. She’s done a lot of things for the city in the past.”

Gail Goebricher said she has been doing the tree lighting ceremony for the city for the past 12 years along with her husband, Barb Sugar and several other people.

“At this point in my life, I am fully interested in somebody else taking the Christmas tree lighting, the details of it, over. However, I do have to say that I am extremely insulted, I guess is the word, that nobody approached me about this and said what do you think about it, have you got any ideas etc etc,” she told the councilors. “I think it would be nice to have somebody else take it over; but I don’t like the way that it came to pass.”

Goebricher, her family and friends have really been the advocates for the tree lighting ceremony and maintaining it for many years, Council President Ron Kaplewicz agreed.

“I can tell you the countless hours that I’ve seen her and her husband here decorating trees and putting lights up and wrapping gifts and taking care of all the other amenities that go with the event. The children enjoy the tree and the whole lighting ceremony,” he said.

He said he hopes that whatever the councils decides to do would allow “Gail and her family, if they would,” to be an active part of the traditional tree lighting ceremony.

“I see this, perhaps, as an opportunity to access some additional resources, people resources, monetary resources and certainly some ideas. I’ve heard briefly about maybe adding horse and buggy sleigh rides to the tree lighting ceremony. That would be a nice touch,” he said. “I would just ask that whatever we do is done in a way that celebrates everything Gail’s family has done; and provide additional resources for having an even bigger and better tree lighting ceremony. I think that’s what we all aspire to do.”

“I agree with that. But I would have like to been asked what do you think, how do you feel about it?” Goebricher said. “As I said, at this point in time I am ready to hand it off to somebody else.”

Losurdo told the councilors about some of the ideas she had for the event.

They include:

  • Having the event on a Saturday around 2 p.m.
  • Tree lighting around 5 p.m.
  • Go to the Armory for arts and crafts, pictures with Santa, snacks and music for the kids
  • Let kids make ornaments for tree
  • Do door prizes for kids
  • Hayrides down streets to see Christmas decorations and let kids vote for the best.

“I think this is just going to be another asset for the city with you guys helping us out,” said Councilor Mike Myers, committee chair. “If Mrs. Goebricher would be more than happy to sit on your committee, that’d be great, too. I understand Gail, you think it came in a backdoor deal; no, I don’t believe so. I think it’s just something that came up.”

“Well, I still think it’s a backdoor deal, sorry,” she said.

“I understand that. But, the tree lighting ceremony has gone down over the years,” he said.

“Yes, it has,” she acquiesced.

“So, to be fair here, I think if you guys bulked up together it is going to be a great thing,” the councilor replied.

“I’m all for it. I’m all for it. But I do have to express my displeasure with the way in which it was done,” she said. “I’m sure there are thing that can be done to improve (the event).”

The committee sent the request to the full council for further consideration.