OSWEGO, NY – The Port City officially lit up for the holidays Thursday night.
It was a brisk late November evening. The temperature lingered near 40, but the wind made it feel like 30.
A large crowd assembled in Civic Plaza to witness the city’s 25th annual Children’s Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen officiated at his first ceremony as mayor. He welcomed the crowd and thanked everyone involved in the event for making it a success again this year.
“Christmas is less about opening our presents than it is about opening our hearts,” the mayor said. “Let’s always remember that it is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air. And, tonight there is definitely Christmas in the air!”
Pastor Bruce Schrader offered a holiday prayer as the Nativity scene and Menorah were lit.
This year, the first day of Hanukkah will begin at sundown on Dec. 8.
The winners of the scholastic holiday essay/poetry writing contest were announced. The two first place finishers read their works to the large crowd.
Earning first place honors were: Hunter Topley, a fourth grader at Kingsford Park Elementary School and John LeBlanc, a fifth grader at Trinity Catholic School.
The winners received savings bonds from Pathfinder Bank.
Santa Claus made his arrival a few moments later aboard a city fire truck – his eight tiny reindeer rested up for their whirlwind worldwide Dec. 24 mission.
He asked the children to help him increase the size of his “nice” list and make the “naughty list as small as possible.”
“You’ve made me oh so proud children. My nice list is so big,” Santa told the children as he stretched his arms wide apart. “My naughty is this small,” he added holding his thumb and index finger about an inch apart.
They should be good each and every day, he told them. He asked them to stop fighting, share their toys and they should help out around the house.
“The vacuum cleaner doesn’t bite and you won’t get dishpan hands,” he said. “When you’re done with your toys, children, put them away. That’s not mom’s job.”
Santa told the children he might not be able to bring everything they asked for. He needed to be sure he had enough gifts for every child in the world.
On Christmas morning, if they find they haven’t received everything they asked for, Santa told the children to smile and say thank you for the gifts they didn’t receive.
“For these are the gifts that (the children) shared with others so that they too may have a merry Christmas,” he said. “Sharing is the most precious gift of all.”
The mayor then led the crowd in the countdown and Makayla Walker (one of Santa’s helpers every year) pressed the button that set the tree aglow in holiday splendor.
Santa invited the children to come into City Hall and visit with him.
The line of parents and their children snaked down the stairway and out into the plaza.
The Jolly Old Elf paid close attention to every child as they visited with him and shared their Christmas wish lists.
As each youngster climbed (or was placed) on Santa’s lap, they all had specific ideas of what they wanted to find under their tree.
Santa said he made a mental note of each request and gave each child a candy cane before telling them he see them again, when they were sleeping, on Dec. 24.
Youngsters who visited Santa didn’t have to leave right away.
The Common Council Chambers were transformed into Elf Land with plenty of holiday activities for the youngsters.
Instrumental music was provided by students from Trinity Catholic School.
Larry Rapshaw performed a variety of Christmas classics in the foyer of City Hall. Nearby, light holiday refreshments were served by the Lions Club.
The Snowbelters performed outside while waiting for Santa to arrive. They sang some holiday favorites.
Bob Riggio, of RRR Music served as the DJ providing the entertainment to warm up the crowd as everyone awaited Santa’s arrival.