Well over a hundred people braved the cold in downtown Canton to kick off the Christmas season with the annual Light Night event last Friday. Everyone huddled together as they sang Christmas songs, lit the tree, visited the animals at the petting zoo, met with Santa, and watched the live Nativity Scene.
“It’s kind of like the night where everyone comes together to kick off Christmas,” said Sean Tymeson, pastor of the Lighthouse Church and announcer of the live Nativity Scene.
Eric Schoonover, president of the local chamber of commerce, said that while the chamber tries to do everything with an eye towards helping local businesses, the Light Night event is more about giving back to the community.
“It’s just something nice to kick off the holiday season with,” said Schoonover, adding, “This is more about the community; this really is just us giving back.”
Started as just an opportunity for local children to visit with Santa Claus, Schoonover said that the event has started to expand in recent years by adding things like the live Nativity scene and the horse drawn wagon rides.
“We always come to this every year because we are always here visiting my family right when Santa is coming to town. The kids love it,” said Elizabeth O’Hara of Beaver Creek.
O’Hara, who came with her husband, four children and her husband’s family, said that along with Santa her children love the horse wagon rides.
“They are really looking forward to that,” O’Hara said.
The night kicked off with Santa and Mrs. Claus arriving by horse-drawn wagon to light the Christmas tree and street lighting while being escorted by police and fire officials. After that Santa headed to the Chemung Canal Trust Company where children and their families lined up down the block to wait their turn so kids could sit in his lap and tell him what presents they want.
“This is our fourth year hosting Santa, and we always enjoy it. It means a lot to us; I grew up in Canton and anything to bring the community together, we like to do that,” said Kim Bailey, assistant vice-president and branch manager of the Chemung Canal Trust Company in Canton.
Along with the free wagon rides there was also live animals provided by Fairview Farm and Guest Ranch, and refreshments provided by the Lighthouse Church.
“We bring Santa Claus to town through Main Street and then we will do loops, and anyone is welcome to come ride the wagon,” said Ashley Shedden, co-owner of Fairview.
Shedden said she loves participating in events like Light Night and helps with Nativity scenes across the area. Along with being available for children to pet, the cow, goats, and other farm animals were also used as part of Nativity Scene.
As an addition to this year’s event, Schoonover said that local businesses competed to see who could put up the most festive decorations.
“First Citizens Bank came in first place,” he said.