Unlike a certain department store in New York City where children have to make a reservation to speak with Santa, Town of Lloyd Events Committee chair Kate Jonietz promises that Santa will stay as long as it takes to hear the wishes of all children at this year’s annual Light Up the Hamlet event on Friday, December 8 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Admission is free.
The streets in the hamlet of Highland are closed to traffic for the holiday celebration. The event gets tweaked every year in terms of the smaller details, but the town-square community gathering always has a nostalgic quality to it; a small-town sweetness that evokes the holidays of earlier, more innocent eras.
This year, the cheerleading squad from Highland High School will rev up the crowd as Santa Claus makes his entrance (around 6:15 p.m.) by fire truck. The Highland Fire District does the honors, with the Clintondale Fire Department manning fire pits on the street, where kids can enjoy toasted marshmallows while their parents sip on a warm beverage and get toasty in the cold night air.
Santa Claus arrives at the corner of Main Street and Vineyard Avenue in the dark, the fire truck he rides in escorted by local police with much ceremony; horns honking and sirens blaring. After greeting the crowd from the top of the truck, the jolly old elf flips the switch that lights up the town Christmas tree and the lights on the street posts, and to the sound of cheers from the crowd, makes his way to his makeshift quarters for the evening at Santa’s Workshop across the street.
The cheerleaders will stick around to do face-painting for kids throughout the evening. Students from the high school Interact Club — a junior version of Rotary Club – decorate Santa’s Workshop in advance, and on the night of the event, act the part of elves to assist the youngsters waiting their turn to talk to Santa. They make the wait more pleasant with free popcorn for all — freshly made — and a few blankets are laid out on the floor of the workshop for kids to sprawl on and watch classic Christmas videos. Santa’s flight path and up-to-date weather conditions will be posted on the wall, and the “naughty and nice” corner lets kids score their own behavior to see if they’ll measure up when it comes time to get the goods.
The First United Methodist Church in the town square will bring back the cookie walk of years past, with homemade goodies filling several banquet tables inside, and the Highland High School choir will sing carols of the season. Listeners can indulge in a bit of homemade fudge, cookies or other appetizing sweets at the bake sale there or buy an entire box of the treats to take home for later.
Something new this year will be ensembles made up of members of the high school concert band performing in small duos and trios around the hamlet. Brass instrument players will perform outside by the fire pits, with woodwind players adding festive cheer inside several of the restaurants.
The Town of Lloyd Police Department is also once again collecting donations for the annual Toys for Tots drive. New, unwrapped toys may be dropped off at the town police station at 25 Milton Avenue for distribution to families in need. A donation box is located 24/7 in the lobby.