OSWEGO, NY – The Port City officially lit up for the holidays Thursday night.
It was a pristine December evening. The temperature lingered in the upper 30s. The only thing missing was some snow – not that anyone really minded.
Hundreds of people huddled in Civic Plaza to witness the city’s 24th annual Children’s Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Oswego Mayor Randy Bateman officiated at his final ceremony as mayor.
He welcomed the crowd and thanked everyone involved in the event for making it a success again this year.
Pastor Bruce Schrader presided over the lighting of the Nativity scene.
Rabbi Yossi Madvig officiated over the lighting of the menorah to welcome the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
The winners of the scholastic holiday essay writing contest were announced.
The first place finishers read their works to the large crowd.
Earning first place honors were: Cecile Laundre, a fourth grader from Kingsford Park Elementary; and Rachel Krul, 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,” he added.
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 the tree was aglow in holiday splendor.
Santa then 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.
The children’s lists included everything from traditional toys to today’s high-tech gizmos.
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.
Some, however, needed a little parental prodding to talk to Santa.
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. The Oswego Opera Theater Chorus Carolers provided many holiday favorites as well.
Members of the Oswego Lions Club served light refreshments to the waiting crowd.
The Snowbelters performed outside while waiting for Santa to arrive. They sang some holiday favorites including “Rudolph” and “Frosty.”
Bob Riggio, of RRR Music served as the DJ providing the entertainment to warm up the crowd as everyone awaited Santa’s arrival.