By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
The annual lighting of the Christmas tree on the Green will herald an evening of merriment Saturday.
The six-hour holiday festival will begin at 2 p.m. with Christmas music, food trucks, face painting, train rides and wreath decorating, as well as craft and artisan vendors.
The event is presented by the city, the First Congregational Church of West Haven and West Haven United, an organization aimed at bringing the city’s volunteer groups together.
Lou Esposito, Mayor Nancy R. Rossi’s executive assistant, will serve as the master of ceremonies.
The festivities, featuring a cast of costumed Christmas characters, will continue at 3 p.m. with the opening of Santa’s village and eight craft stations on the Green, where children can decorate wooden ornaments, write letters to Santa, and make cards for U.S. troops overseas and those at the Veterans Affairs Hospital on Campbell Avenue.
At 3:15 p.m., West Haven High School junior Nora E. Mullins will sing the national anthem, followed by a half-hour play by the West Haven High Drama Club at 3:30 p.m.
The ceremony will continue at 4 p.m. with performances by the West Haven High dance team, holiday carols sung by the St. Lawrence School chorus and performances by the Top Hat Dance Academy.
Along with hayrides, kids can ride on a vintage firetruck from the West Shore Fire Department.
The activities are free, but people are asked to bring nonperishable items for the West Haven Emergency Assistance Task Force, which provides food for residents in need.
For a $5 fee, youngsters can also take a ride on the Roaming Railroad, a trackless train sponsored by the West Haven PTA Council.
Shortly after 5 p.m., the West Haven High and Seahawks cheerleading teams will perform, followed by Yuletide classics sung by the Bailey Middle School chorus and a singalong led by Victorian carolers from a portable stage on the Main Street side of the Green.
At 6 p.m., Rossi will greet revelers and announce the designers of her Christmas cards and the winners of West Haven United’s ornament-making and merchant window-decorating contests.
The cheerleading teams will then escort Santa and Mrs. Claus to the stage, where they will join Rossi and her special guests to set the tree aglow.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive in a 1935 Mack pump firetruck from the West Haven Fire Department.
The city’s official Christmas tree is encircled by five smaller evergreen trees adorned with fluorescent-colored lights.
Before returning to the North Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus will meet visitors and pose for snapshots in their workshop until 8 p.m. Organizers will offer the photos with Santa as a free digital download online.
Starting Wednesday, people can view and download their photos on the city’s Flickr page at https://goo.gl/EkLxZz. The internet address is case sensitive.
Just steps from Santa’s workshop, boys and girls can drop off their wish lists at St. Nick’s official U.S. Postal Service mailbox.
Huge electric snowflakes will decorate The John C. Ireland Bandstand, and Victorian streetlamps bedecked with angels blowing on trumpets will illuminate the walkways.
The decorated Green will also include an inflatable snow globe that children can go in and have their pictures taken.
Volunteers from the West Haven Chamber of Commerce will hand out free hot chocolate, and vendors will sell food and novelties.
The vendors will include the First Congregational Church and the food trucks of Franco’s Fried Dough-Licious, Hungry Bear, Ruethai’s Kitchen and Ted’s Steam Machine.
Also, volunteers from West Haven United will sell hot apple cider, coffee and hot chocolate.
After the lighting, live seasonal music from The Rock House School of Music and Off the Hook, “Connecticut’s premier party band,” will fill the air.
If it rains, the lighting will go on at 5 p.m. Monday.