By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Santa and Mrs. Claus joined Mayor Nancy R. Rossi and her special guests to light the Christmas tree on the Green during the annual holiday kickoff Saturday.
Santa and Mrs. Claus, who arrived in a 1916 Ford pump firetruck from the West Haven Fire Department, were escorted to the Main Street stage by the West Haven High School and Seahawks cheerleading teams to the sound of applause and shouts of glee from an estimated 600 merrymakers young and old.
Before the lighting of the tree, which is encircled by five smaller evergreen trees adorned with fluorescent-colored lights, Rossi held a moment of silence for the late West Haven High Principal Pamela B. Gardner.
The mayor then recognized her guests, West Haven High seniors Amanda Hill and Kassandra Marron, followed by Notre Dame High School seniors Kamron Bell and Jared Thayer, junior Roy Sebas and sophomore Rayquan Burruss.
Rossi was also accompanied onstage by her grandson, Arthur, 8, and his friends Sean Albuquerque and Ella Rose McDonnell.
The late afternoon festivities opened with a rendition of the national anthem by West Haven High sophomore Nora E. Mullins and followed with holiday carols sung by the St. Lawrence School chorus.
The ceremony featured performances by the West Haven High dance team and the Top Hat Dance Academy and Yuletide classics sung by the Church of the Holy Spirit choir and the Bailey Middle School chorus.
Before their long sleigh ride back to the North Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus posed for snapshots in their workshop. Organizers offered the photos with Santa as a free digital download online.
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 dropped off their wish lists at St. Nick’s official U.S. Postal Service mailbox.
The event was sponsored by Baybrook Remodelers Inc., Anthony Cordone, First Congregational Church of West Haven, Komar Construction Co., the McCarthy family, New Life Church, The Rock House School of Music, RVP Studios, Studio G Music Instruction, USAlliance Federal Credit Union, West Haven Chamber of Commerce and West Haven United.
Huge electric snowflakes decorated The John C. Ireland Bandstand, and Victorian-era streetlamps bedecked with angels blowing on trumpets illuminated the walkways.
Along with hayrides, children rode on a vintage firetruck from the West Shore Fire Department. Youngsters also enjoyed a variety of craft stations on the Green, where they decorated wooden ornaments, wrote letters to Santa, and made cards for U.S. troops overseas and those at the Veterans Affairs Hospital on Campbell Avenue.
People brought nonperishable items for the West Haven Emergency Assistance Task Force, which provides food for residents in need.
West Haven United, an organization aimed at bringing the city’s volunteer groups together, announced Theresa McElwaine, of West Haven, and Dreadies Headies, 397 Campbell Ave., as the winners of its ornament-making and merchant window-decorating contests, respectively. The winners received a gift certificate to Casa Bianca Pizza, 217 Campbell Ave.
Volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce handed out hot chocolate, and vendors sold food and novelties.
The vendors included the Cappetta’s Italian Imports & Pizza truck, Casa Bianca, Riley’s Mobile Kitchen and Sweet Cupcasions.
Also, volunteers from West Haven United sold hot apple cider and snacks.
After the lighting, the sounds of the holiday season filled the air with rock ’n’ roll renditions of Christmas favorites on the bandstand by bands from Rock House, RVP Studios and Studio G.