B y Jaime Thomas
An estimated 800 to 1,000 people gathered in Veterans Park Friday night to watch the big man illuminate a huge display of lights.
Everyone involved with the preparation—the village, Granville Area Chamber of Commerce, museums and more—was gushing about the event during and after the night.
“I couldn’t be happier with how the whole thing pulled off. The whole night was way beyond my expectations,” said Dean Hyatt, a village trustee and water quality control manager at Six Flags Great Escape. He was able to coordinate the transfer of tens of thousands of lights from his company to the village for a nominal fee.
“It just went extremely well, no glitches. It felt like we’d been doing it for 10 years,” he said. Before Santa stopped by the park, he visited Granville’s two museums: the Slate Valley Museum and the Pember Library and Museum. Officials said between the children’s activities before the lighting and First Friday events after, they had large turnouts.
“All together 300 people between the two events. It was wonderful; it was hectic,” said Bo Young, a Pember trustee, with a laugh. “We were really pleased with the turnout. We love seeing the library filled like that. It’s a nice thing when we can coordinate something as a village, and it just gets exponentially better.”
He described the excitement of the evening as contagious, something others echoed.
“I think the collaborative event went phenomenally,” said Sarah Kijowski, interim director of the Slate Valley Museum. She estimated more than 500 people stopped in to see the Festival of Trees, many of whom were first time visitors. “There’s been a lot of buzz around the museum about it.”
Village Clerk Rick Roberts was one of the driving forces behind the event, and he said it turned out as he hoped it would.
“We’re trying to bring a little cheer to everyone, but it also promotes Granville. Most everything we tried came off on time,” he said, referring to the tree-lighting. A number of village officials and volunteers flipped on trees throughout the park in time with a song from the Nutcracker Suite.
The hundreds of people in the park pointed and shouted as the various trees came to life, brightly illuminating the area. Then, what Hyatt thought was 500 or 600 people stood in line and under heated lamps, provided by Six Flags, as John Shaw’s Clydesdales pulled Santa in on a carriage.
“It was great to see the amount of kids and the smiles on their faces. Santa’s gotta be tired out,” Hyatt said. Then Nathan Rathbun, who St. Nick specially requested, joined him on stage to use a magical bell to light the trees.
As the hundreds stood in line for their chance to sit on Mr. Claus’s lap, others rode in Shaw’s wagon and lit off 215 sky lanterns. These proved to be very popular and were visible throughout the village as they floated over the park and into darkness.
Roberts pointed out that the event brought a lot of business to area restaurants and hopes this will continue into the future. He wasn’t the only one looking forward.
“Now we’ll just have to see how to make it bigger next year,” Hyatt joked. Young also said he hopes the collaborative effort will go on next December, as did Kijowski.
“I hope it was a good night for Granville, and I hope it will help make the holiday season in Granville for our constituents and businesses and will bring people into town,” Roberts said.
Hyatt said the night was an overwhelming success, especially because the weather cooperated.
“Most impressive was the amount of people that volunteered to sort and put up lights. It felt like a nice community project,” he said. “It’s great to have this right here in Granville, so you don’t have to go anywhere.”
Trees are still on display and up for auction at the Slate Valley Museum, which has temporarily extended its hours to 10 a.m. to 5 pm. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.