Singing voices filled the cool evening air as rain drizzled down on umbrellas and warm winter hats. Families walked up from all directions and gathered in a soggy crowd outside of City Hall, for it was December 1st and Christmas was coming to Deer Park.
A little after 5:00 PM, the choir led the crowd in a countdown. As the excitement built, everyone turned and moved towards the city’s Christmas tree, and when the count reached zero the tree’s lights flickered to multi-colored life as the two fire engines at the station across the street lit up the neighborhood with their flashing emergency lights. Claps and cheers were heard throughout the crowd, and families began to grab photos in front of the tree as kids dashed below to play.
Mayor Verzal invited everyone to enjoy hot cocoa and cider provided by the city, and thanked Yoke’s Fresh Market for donating the cookies. Local royalty was on hand to serve the light refreshments, and Verzal helped out by keeping the supplies stocked.
A special guest, Santa himself, brought out candy canes for young and old alike to everyone’s delight. After taking his first taste, one little boy said his candy cane was “Christmas-flavored” and enthusiastically devoured the holiday treat. One attendee, Paula, said her favorite part of the community celebration each year was the “singing and the ambiance of the Christmas spirit”. She had been joyfully participating in each year’s tree-lighting for over two decades, but was particularly enjoying this year’s celebration because, as she said, “Santa Claus is my husband!” Paula, (or is it Mrs. Claus?) said her husband has been playing Santa for family, friends, and children with special needs for several years but that this was his first year at the tree-lighting.
Without the piles of snow from plowed roads for kids to slide down, or snow-covered grass for the lights to reflect off of, the event felt more dreary and dismal than years past. The crowd seemed to scatter more quickly too, since the children didn’t have snowballs to hurl at one another. Next year City Hall may look more like the North Pole, or not, but it’s likely Deer Park’s citizens will greet the lights with joy no matter their surroundings.