TOMS RIVER – “Merry Christmas everyone,” little Luke Polhemus of Pine Beach said and with those words the 6-year-old from Pine Beach pushed the magic button that Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines handed him, and a 28-foot tall Norway Spruce lit up.
Luke joined his 11-month old brother Brayden who was in his stroller beside him as he did the honor of activating the 6,000 energy efficient LED bulbs that were hung on the tree and which brightened Downtown Toms River like a yuletide beacon on December 4.
The county’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony was held on the grounds of the Ocean County Administration Building at 101 Hooper Ave.
The lighting of the Christmas tree is coordinated by the elves who work in the building and grounds department of the county according to the program handed out to close 100 people who stood at the corner of Hooper and Washington Street.
The sound of students from the South Toms River Elementary Chorus were heard as they sang a variety of holiday favorites. Principal Dennis Holzaphel and Nikole Mustica, supervisor of instruction and Musical Director Stephanie Higham were there to hear them.
Following the ceremony, it was time to take off some of the early winter chill with some hot and cold apple cider and Christmas cookies that were available inside the crowded Administration Building.
The refreshments were provided by the Ocean County Vocational-Technical Schools culinary arts students.
Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines welcomed everyone to the celebration. “I look forward to this wonderful time of year and lighting our beautiful County tree.”
Freeholders Gary Quinn, Gerry P. Little and Joseph H. Vicari were also on hand to wish the crowd a wonderful and safe holiday season.
The government complex decorating and tree lighting were performed by the Ocean County Department of Buildings and Grounds headed by Superintendent Joseph Meyers, Supervising Landscaper Joseph LaManna and Supervising Building Service Don Leone.
Reverend James Occhipinti gave the invocation at the program. He wished everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Joyous Kwanzaa.
Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy and Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer were also present at the event.