By Michael P. Walsh
Special to the Voice
Joined onstage by Santa and Mrs. Claus, Mayor Edward M. O’Brien helped Bailey Middle School seventh-graders Jasmin Cintron and Llianay Romaro and eighth-graders Eveleen Jiang and Sofia Lora use a “special smartphone app” 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, were escorted to the Main Street stage by the West Haven High School cheerleading team to the sound of applause and shouts of glee from an estimated 300 merrymakers young and old.
Before the ceremonial lighting of the tree, which is encircled by five smaller evergreen trees adorned with fluorescent-colored lights, O’Brien heralded the students as the selected artists of his Christmas card campaign.
The lighting was immediately followed by the ringing of the new electronic carillon system in the steeple of the 298-year-old First Congregational Church on the Green.
The evening of festivities featured renditions of holiday carols performed by Michael Martone and Friends, followed by Yuletide classics spun by Martone.
Before their long sleigh ride back to the North Pole, Santa and Mrs. Claus posed for snapshots in their workshop.
For the first time, organizers offered the photos with Santa as a free digital download online.
Through Jan. 8, people can view and download their photos on the city’s Flickr webpage 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 the USAlliance Federal Credit Union and the West Haven Voice.
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 enjoyed an inflatable bounce house. They also fished in a “pond” for prizes.
People brought nonperishable items for the West Haven Emergency Assistance Task Force, which provides food for residents in need.
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, the Elm City Kettle Corn Co. and the Louise’s Homemade Food & Baked Goods truck.