MERIDEN — The crowd quickly filled the stands Tuesday as the sky above Hubbard Park grew darker and the cups of hot chocolate steamed from a nearby table.
About 150 people came to the annual Festival of Silver Lights to watch as Gisele and Michael Cardona switched on 350,000 twinkling lights on more than 200 figures, instantly turning the park into a holiday wonderland.
“I bring my granddaughter every year,” said Rebeccca Cajigas.
Her grandaughter likes to see Santa and ride the sleigh.
“She enjoys it,” Cajigas said. “The fresh air is good for the kids and gets them away from the television.”
Families with children warmed up with hot cocoa and cookies as performers from the Meriden Youth Theater sang holiday music.
“I’m waiting for the lights and music,” said Greg Diaz, whose twins Delaney and Devon performed with the Meriden Youth Theater group. “It’s a good night. They’ve been involved for at least seven years. It’s something to do for the community.”
The lighting festival officially kicks of the holiday season at the park. Thousands of visitors across the state make the annual light display a holiday destination.
It was the first festival for the city’s new Recreation Coordinator Kathy Matula, who was setting up the refreshment table with Council of Neighborhoods President Holly Wills.
“I’m very excited,” Wills said.
Matula is planning smaller holiday events on Dec. 7 and Dec. 14 at the park, she said.
“It’s an invigorating event that brings the community together around the holidays,” said City Councilor Miguel Castro. “It highlights one of the endearing qualities with the city of Meriden.”