What a night!

B y Jamie Norton

Granville residents – your Christmas season has officially begun.

Last Friday’s tree lighting celebration – after months of planning and weeks of preparation by hundreds of hands – was a smashing success. The weather couldn’t have been better. The decorations spread throughout town and especially at Veterans Park were vibrant. Santa Claus made an exciting grand entrance and was as jolly as ever. And the highly anticipated, music-synchronized light shows were outstanding.

“Overall, I think we were very pleased,” said holiday committee chairman Rick Roberts. “The turnout was great, the weather was great … the town looked good, the village looked good, and the light show went off pretty well.”

The annual event, which seems to become bigger and brighter each year, was as grand as ever this time around. While hundreds of people began their evening at the Slate Valley Museum’s Festival of Trees or the Pember Library and Museum’s Festival of Wreaths, many went straight to the park, where everybody’s favorite holiday pop songs echoed throughout, courtesy of local D.J. Brent Tuttle.

Regardless of where people started, though, everyone eventually made their way to the park in anticipation of Old St. Nick’s arrival. That anticipation reached its peak when village trustee Paul Labas, acting as the evening’s emcee, announced that Santa was just around the corner.

Sure enough, the big guy arrived by horse-drawn carriage just minutes later, and with his trademark “Ho Ho Ho,” the fun really began. He took the stage alongside a number of star students from Mary J. Tanner School who earned the honor to be there by working hard in school and doing good deeds for people. The group included Breanna Bothers, Brett Stewart, Madelaine Wilson, Ella Olsen, Kolton Towne, Ayden Smith, Cameron Dekalb, Sebastian Ritchie, and the luckiest of them all, Kylee Campbell, who won the honor of riding with Santa in his carriage and waving the magic wand to officially start the show.

And what a show it was. The light show, through the cooperative efforts of D.J. Brent and Prosoft Computer Services’ John Freed, began flashing and dancing throughout Veterans Park to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards in Winter.” While everyone knew something new and exciting was coming, the look on the faces of the hundreds of people in the crowd suggested that it was bigger and better than anything they’d expected. And the best part was, they did it again – to a different song – every 15 minutes or so.

After the first light show, Santa took a seat in the center of the pagoda and began welcoming kids to his lap. A steady stream of eager youngsters continued through the pavilion all evening – some 300, Roberts estimated – each having a nice little conversation with Father Christmas and receiving a lovely parting gift of trinkets and treats.

But Santa wasn’t the only famous character that could be found at the park. Alvin and the Chipmunks were there. So was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Even the Grinch was in a good enough mood for some photo ops. It was just a festive evening all around.

“You have to tip your hat to people and just thank them for getting you through,” Roberts said, grateful for everyone who worked the event and volunteered time, service, or goods before and during the celebration. “I thought it was a great night. The kids just seemed very enthusiastic.”

Though it was a warm, beautiful night, those who did get a little chilly were in luck. The VFW and American Legion Auxiliaries provided a warming tent and free hot cocoa and cookies, and the local Boy Scouts offered a fire and free marshmallows to roast.

Later, another popular activity came about when kids and adults alike got to launch their sky lanterns. Before long, those majestic, hot air balloon-type toys lit up the night sky, a perfect backdrop for the lights around the park and the gigantic Christmas tree to shine ever so brightly against.

“I think, overall, my expectations were exceeded,” Roberts said. “It’s a labor of love, but when it finally comes to fruition, and it becomes about what you’d hoped for, it’s really kind of special for a small town.”

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