The frigid temperatures last Friday night, December 9, did not deter a sizable crowd from turning out for the Town of Lloyd’s annual Light Up the Hamlet event. The streets of downtown Highland were blocked off to traffic, creating a safe enclave for the festivities to ensue.
The town square was pitch dark as the evening began, clusters of people huddled together around several fire pits awaiting the arrival of Santa. Soon enough, with a police escort’s flashing lights and siren and the fire truck he was riding in blaring its horn, Santa Claus came to town.
He climbed atop the fire truck, triumphant as a mountain climber reaching the top of the peak, waving to the assembled kids. Santa’s arrival was greeted by the sound of hundreds of high-pitched whistles given out beforehand to the kids in the crowd. Egged on by the Highland High School cheerleaders, Santa waved to the kids and with a swoop of his hand, lit up the hamlet, strings of lights and globe ornaments decorating the streets coming to life in a flash.
Santa then made his way to his makeshift quarters for the evening at Santa’s Workshop, located in the former bank on the corner of Main Street. The building had been decorated earlier in the week by the members of Highland High School’s Interact Club, who were now dressed as elves ready to assist the man in red. Kids lined up outside for the opportunity to come into the Workshop, where the high school students manning an old-fashioned red popcorn machine were turning out bags of free popcorn and blankets were spread on the floor for kids to sprawl on and watch a screening of the vintage ‘60s Rankin-Bass Rudolph special.
With the entrance of the first kids, Santa’s Workshop was soon a beehive of activity. “Welcome to the North Pole!” the kids heard from a charmingly-turned out Mrs. Claus, portrayed by Interact Club vice-president and HHS senior, Kaitlyn Poluzzi. Her authentic-looking garb as Mrs. Claus was borrowed from Minard’s Farm, where Poluzzi has a part-time job playing Mrs. Claus during the holiday season. This was the first time Mrs. Claus had been present at Light Up the Hamlet, she noted. By her side was elf Toby Meisel, enthusiastic about welcoming in the visitors.
One corner of the Workshop was devoted to a photo booth sponsored by the Boy Scouts. For a very nominal fee of $3, individuals or groups of people could pose for photos, with four shots included on a holiday-themed postcard.
Santa’s flight path and up-to-date weather conditions were posted on a wall and Santa himself sat in the corner, hearing the wishes of every child who waited in line to sit on his lap. The line extended a good way down the street outside, with the last of the line, once inside, marked by large sacks of reindeer feed.
Outside, musicians from the high school played instrumental versions of holiday favorites. The Lloyd Methodist Church across the street hosted their annual indoor craft fair and cookie walk, with vendors selling handcrafted goods, beauty products, jewelry and the like alongside the cookie sale, where a pound of homemade brownies and festively decorated cookies could be purchased for $9). The altar area of the church was given over to the Highland High School Concert Choir. Later in the evening, the Evergreen Chorus sang songs of the season in the town square.
Underground Coffee & Ales right in the heart of the hamlet offered a respite spot for cold visitors seeking refuge from the bitter temperatures outside, offering a spot for adults to imbibe a craft beer or glass of wine alongside their kids drinking hot chocolate. A few doors down, karate shihan Mike Skinner was in evidence in his brightly lit dojo working on karate moves with some of his students.
The event was sponsored by the Town of Lloyd Events/Beautification Committee, led by Kate Jonietz along with AnnMarie Meisel, Stephanie Fraino, Kate’s husband, Adolf Jonietz — who may or may not be Santa, just sayin’ — and Lauriann Marion, Natasha Gasparro, Christina DeMaio and Sally Bellacicco.
For the families not able to provide traditional holiday gifts for their kids, the Town of Lloyd Police Department is sponsoring its annual toy drive through Saturday, December 17. New and unwrapped toys may be dropped off at the town police station for distribution to families in need. A donation box is located 24/7 in the lobby. Additional donation drop boxes are at Town Hall, Vineyard Commons, Vigneto Café and Soshu Oyama karate dojo. Questions about Operation Christmas may be directed to either Lt. James Janso (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Sgt. Phillip Roloson (email@example.com).