TOMS RIVER – Twas 19 days before Christmas and there was plenty of cheer, music, a reading of a holiday favorite and a visit by that jolly old elf, Santa Claus and his wife, in downtown Toms River.
The Dec. 6 gathering’s main event however was the lighting of a large Christmas Tree in the courtyard at the township’s municipal building. It was all part of the annual Toms River Christmas Tree lighting ceremony which drew several hundred people to the courtyard between the township municipal building and the Toms River branch of the Ocean County Library.
The festive event was once again sponsored by the Downtown Toms River Business Improvement District.
Kris Kringle and his wife arrived by way of a township fire truck just in time to help officials light up the tree in celebration of the holiday season.
Members of Toms River Volunteer Fire Company 1 provided hot chocolate and various treats for purchase. The proceeds of the sales went to the fire department. Several vendors were also there and members of the Wellspring Church provided some crafty ornaments to visitor s to the courtyard.
Attendees had to endure a spritz of rain during the two hour event but none of them seemed to mind and a few were prepared with umbrellas.
The fire company also coordinated photos with Santa Claus after his arrival.
Activities this year included a performance by the Donovan Catholic Choir followed by Zzak G. Applaud Our Kids Foundation and the Toms River High School South Choir.
Members of From A Dancers Pointe, a Toms River based dance group for ages 5-17 made their debut at the event.
Norrie Calascibetta and her daughter Victoria Calascibetta assembled the dance group dressed in holiday attire, in Mancini Hall where they performed a warm up dance before their time on the steps of the library facing the courtyard.
“This is our first time here for this event,” Victoria Calascibetta who serves as artistic director said.
“We’ve been open for the last five years and our dancers volunteer for a lot of community activities like this so we decided to take part in this event and we’re happy to be here as part of it. We have our holiday vendors night at our own studio tomorrow,” Norrie Calascibetta said.
The reading of “Twas The Night Before Christmas” is a tradition at the event which segued to the arrival of Santa and the lighting of the tree. Once again, Waretown resident Karla Ivarson was there to provide the reading. “I love the story and I enjoy doing this every year. It’s a holiday tradition,” Ivarson said.
Austin Zieser, 3, of Toms River was surprised and a bit in awe by the appearance of a snowman from the popular animated film “Frozen.” The snowman walked up the sidewalk just moments after Santa and Mrs. Claus’s arrival.
His parents quickly posed a photo with their child and the popular snowman.
Many families were present for the event and the sight of children running around the grounds within the courtyard was not an uncommon sight during the evening.
Shawn Michaels of WOBM/Townssquare Media served as master of ceremonies for the event introducing the talent and welcoming Santa and his wife upon their arrival from the fire truck.