OSWEGO, NY – The Port City officially lit up for the holidays on Saturday.
Hundreds of people throughout the day enjoyed the first-ever Light Up, Oswego!
The new community wide all-day event, welcomed the holiday season in Oswego at myriad locations. Events and activities began at 10 a.m. and continued until around 7:30 p.m. after Santa had greeted hundreds of youngsters in City Hall.
Prior to assisting with the annual tree lighting ceremony and meeting the children, the Jolly Old Elf helped promote Toys for Tots’ “A Day of Sharing.” The event, at the Lake Ontario Conference Center on East First Street, featured many activities.
It was one of their best events ever, according to one of the organizers.
Those attending the Toys for Tots event brought a new, unwrapped, toy to donate. All donations go to help families right here in Oswego County.
For more information, visit www.adayofsharing.com
The city’s museums, the H. Lee White Maritime Museum and Richardson-Bates House Museum, were also dressed up for the holidays.
St. Joseph’s Church’s parish center was the site of a huge holiday shopping expo featuring many vendors as well as assorted activities for children.
November 29 was also Small Business Saturday.
Several downtown area Oswego restaurants and businesses were open throughout the day. Visitor enjoyed many holiday shopping and dining specials.
“This is great to see, all these people downtown and shopping locally,” a city resident said inside Lakeside Artisans in the Canal Commons on West First Street. “Oswego really has so much to offer if people would just take the time to look around.”
At Man in the Moon Candies owner Amy Lear said she had a steady crowd of customers all afternoon.
“It’s been wonderful. We have had a lot of customers and the other downtown businesses are also seeing an increase, too. The nice weather and all the (Light Up, Oswego) events have helped bring more people downtown,” she told Oswego County Today.
“It’s just a great event,” Mayor Tom Gillen said. “The Oswego City-County Youth Bureau and a large group of volunteers are coordinating all of this and the city is dedicating our resources to help. It’s Small Business Saturday, too. We’ve got a great group of businesses here. It’s absolutely wonderful to see all the people shopping in Oswego, supporting the local economy. I hope a lot of these shoppers today discover how much our beautiful city has to offer and will continue to come back in the future to support our business community.”
It was a brisk late November evening. The temperature lingered near 30, but the wind made it feel like 20.
A large crowd assembled in Civic Plaza to witness the city’s 27th annual Children’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Christmas music started at 5 p.m., courtesy of the Oswego High School Chamber Singers.
Shortly before 6 p.m., the crowd swelled as dozens of youngsters marching in the second holiday children’s parade arrived in Civic Plaza. Members of the Oswego Police and Fire departments ensured the youngsters had a safe route. One motorist, however, rolled right past a police officer directing traffic away from the youngsters. The driver was corralled quickly before they got too far and there were no injuries.
Santa was escorted by Oswego Fire and Police departments.
Mayor Gillen officiated at the ceremony.
“It’s a great time of year!” he exclaimed. “Christmas is not just a season; it is a feeling that is inside of everybody. Christmas is less about opening our presents than it is about opening our hearts. 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!”
He went on to thank the coterie of volunteers that helped organize all of the day’s events.
Then, the Nativity scene and Menorah were lit.
Rabbi Yossi Madvig explained the importance of Hanukkah.
“Hanukkah is probably one of the main reasons why we’re all standing here tonight,” he said. “There was a war against the Greek army.”
The Greek government had suppressed religious freedom, he explained. The Jews fought back and won a tremendous victory.
“So therefore the very fact that we have this tree lighting as protected by the Constitution, could not possibly be more encompassed in the idea of Hanukkah and the fact that we have a Menorah as well in front of City Hall; to tell the world that everyone has the right and the freedom to practice the religion that they wish to practice and that no government and no person can stop them.”
This year, the first day of Hanukkah will begin at sundown on Dec. 16.
The winners of the scholastic holiday poetry writing and coloring contests were announced.
Those who were present, read their award-winning entries and each of the winners received a prize from Oswego County Federal Credit Union.
Earning first place honors were: Samuel Liepke (sixth grade – Oswego Community Christian School), Ryan Symborski (fifth grade – Minetto Elementary School) and Camryn Pastor (fourth grade – Kingsford Park Elementary School) in the poetry division and Elayne Beck (Pre-K – Oswego Community Christian School), Jose Ramos (second grade – Riley Elementary School) and Amomaria Bivens (third grade – Fitzhugh Park Elementary School) in the coloring division.
Santa Claus made his arrival a few moments later aboard a city fire truck – his eight tiny reindeer resting 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 every gift 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 and a bagful of assorted goodies before telling them he see them again, when they were sleeping, on Dec. 24.
Light holiday refreshments were served by the Lions Club. Oswego Lion Bob Bateman whipped up nearly 360 steaming cups of hot chocolate and an equal number of Christmas cookies.
There is more holiday fun in store for Oswego.
Upcoming holiday events include the 2014 Gingerbread House Contest. All entries must be at least 50 percent gingerbread.
Gingerbread houses of all shapes and sizes will be displayed at the Bakery at Canal Commons, 193 W. First St., up until the Late Night Shopping event on December 12.
Winners will be announced at 7 p.m. that day.
There are three categories: Children 12 and under, Adults ages 12 and up, and professional in the food service industry.
Entries are due by Dec. 8.
And, the H. Lee White Maritime Museum’s annual Christmas at Sea Open House is set for Dec. 14 from 1 to 4:30 p.m.
Santa will arrive at 2 p.m. aboard a Coast Guard cutter.
There will be festive model train displays (courtesy of the Oswego Valley Railroad Association), kids’ activities, theme trees throughout the building and more.
For information, call 342-0480.