Mrs. Christmas, or Lyn Austin, was escorted by Santa down Main Street to Town Square where she took the stage with Mr. Christmas, Jesse Austin, and Mayor Jody McLeod to light the Christmas tree.
CLAYTON -- Main Street brimmed with holiday spirit Thursday night as the town celebrated its sixth annual Christmas Village and Tree Lighting.
Nearly 5,000 people strolled through downtown enjoying an evening filled with music, business open houses, a live Nativity scene and the traditional tree lighting on Town Square. The event is an annual project of the Clayton Downtown Development Association, Inc.
For more than two hours, visitors sampled holiday refreshments, including hot chocolate, cider, cookies and candy, at several downtown businesses open on Main Street. Along the way, they were entertained by a doggie Christmas costume contest and parade and seasonal performances by area schools and dance studios.
Santa’s Worship, located at Mosaic Community Garden, was a popular destination. A line filled with children and their accompanying parents snaked along the property as far as the eye could see. At the end of the procession sat Santa Claus, ready to listen to countless wish lists.
“I said I wanted a baby doll,” said Dominique Frye, 6.
“I told him I’m going to mail him my Christmas list,” added her brother, Nicholas, 8.
Along with their parents, Carl and Michelle, the Archer Lodge family makes it a tradition to attend the Clayton festivities.
“We just love to support our community,” Michelle Frye said. “Clayton is so very family oriented, and it’s an honor to live in such an awesome town.”
It was the second year George Alighieri, a former resident of New Jersey, attended with son Christopher, age 5.
“I like coming out to see the people I know,” said Alighieri. “It makes me feel at home. This is a good way to get into the Christmas spirit.”
Restaurants along the route were packed. At Mulberry on Main, owner Bernadette Gubitosi said the wait for a table was nearly an hour long.
“Every year it’s like this for the tree lighting,” she said. “This event brings out more people than any other in town.”
Activities along Main Street wrapped up at 8 p.m. to prepare for the tree lighting. Santa Claus, accompanied by “Mr. and Mrs. Christmas,” locals Jess and Lyn Austin, made the trek toward Town Square in a horse-drawn carriage. In front of them was the Clayton High School marching band.
On a stage set up near the tree, event co-chairs Lorraine Perri and Debbie Brown were honored for their years of dedication to making the festivities a success. It was their last time coordinating the program.
Master of Ceremonies mayor Jody McLeod serenaded the crowd with his rendition of “Jingle Bells” and began the countdown to the lighting. With the help of 7-year-old Justin Robertson, the 26-foot artificial tree came to life with the flip of a switch.
“It was a really nice event,” said downtown-development coordinator Bruce Naegelen. “There was a just a sea of people. The only thing that would have made it even better would have been a little bit of snow.”