BERLIN — Riding in on a fire engine decked out with Christmas lights, Santa Claus came to Veterans Memorial Park Saturday night to flip on the lights on the holiday tree.
Once he climbed down from the glowing tree, which will stay lit until Jan. 1, families lined up to have their picture taken with him in the park’s pavilion and take some free candy canes. The Berlin Kiwanis Club also gave out hot chocolate and a few food trucks also were present for the first time this year. After they got their treats and told Santa what presents they’re hoping for next month, crowds of children chased each other around the park and climbed atop the piles of snow around the parking lot.
“It’s great for the family, they enjoy having some time to play with their friends from school,” said Aaron Lanczki. “It definitely gets people to come together.”
“It’s definitely good for the parents, to run their energy out,” said Michelle Nowik after her son Henry ran off to join his friends. “I think it’s good that the community does this.”
Her daughter McKinley Nowik, 5, said she was excited to donate a tea set and big stuffed animal to the food bank.
“They’re all excited to see Santa Claus,” said Jim Simons, the town’s fire administrator. The event was put together by the fire department and three volunteer fire companies, which put out boots to collect donations for local veterans. By the end of the night a pile of toys and food had also accumulated on one of the tables, which will all be donated to the food bank.
“It’s very important for the fire department to remain in the public eye...it’s very important for them to do civic things,’ Simons said, adding that it not only shows the value citizens are getting for their taxes, but also lets people get to know the first responders they often only see rushing to incidents. “I like to see the people’s reactions, their faces when they see the firefighters and the fire trucks.”
While he said the event has been improving every year, there are still improvements to be made. “I’d like to see this place full.”