MERIDEN — Temperatures in the 50s and blue skies helped bring a record turnout to the streets of South Meriden Saturday for the annual Christmas in the Village event.
”You couldn’t ask for a better day,” said Ed Haberli, a member of the event committee.
Christmas in the Village was started nearly 20 years ago by members of South Meriden community groups. It featured free hay rides, a parade, a visit by Santa Claus at the village firehouse, roasted chestnuts, popcorn, cider doughnuts, hot cocoa and hot dogs.
Crafters and vendors also filled the gymnasium at Hanover Elementary School as police cruisers blocked off a section of Main Street for the event. Hot chestnuts grilled on the sidewalks filled bags that could have doubled as handwarmers but weren’t needed in Saturday’s seasonally mild temperatures.
“We come here every year,” said Jessica Brisk-Cross who brought her 5-year-old daughter Jesalee Brisk-Cross for her favorite offering, the hayride.
“Everything is great, the people, the spirit; it’s just a good time,” said her friend Sandy Chalve.
According to Chalve, the trick to enjoying the event with young children without spending too much time in line, involves having a plan. You watch the parade along Main Street. Just before it ends, you head to the fire house to be among the first in line to see Santa Claus, then you hop down the road for the hay ride.
Planning for the event begins in May every year and the committee hosts a car show to help raise funds to keep everything free to the public. There are about 35 sponsors, mostly local, and the city donated several officers to interact with the community, said Police Corporal Fred Rivera.
“It’s a great day for the city,” said Mayor Kevin Scarpati. “This is probably one of the best attended I’ve been to. Hats off to the Christmas in the Village Committee.”
Local resident Jocelyn Roy performed, followed by Jim Fusco and Number 9 singing rocking Christmas music. Dancers from the Higher Movement Dance Studio, the Meriden YMCA Youth Theater, and Hanover School also performed.
Leslie Ruiz, 12, was volunteering for the first time, selling luminary bags to raise money for Girls Inc.
“It’s fun, I like talking to the people,” she said. “They’re five dollars and will lead the way to the Christmas tree.”