NORTH WEBSTER — As soon as the tree lighting festivities began on Saturday, downtown North Webster was packed with residents enjoying everything on offer.
Much of the activity was centered on the lawn of Pilcher’s Shoes, where attendees could do crafts with Girl Scout Troop 57002, make reindeer food with the Wawasee High School National Honors Society, or just gather around one of the two campfires set up to keep people warm while the temperature dropped. Trumpet player Matt Murdock wandered the grounds, playing Christmas carols for everyone to hear. Performances were also given by the North Webster Elementary choir and local musician Clint Olson.
Staff from The River Coffeehouse were also there in their new coffee truck, handing out free hot chocolate and shortbread cookies. The River gave out an estimated 500 cups of hot cocoa, while Jennifer and Jill’s Salon provided 300 free hot dogs. Tangibles Resale and Consignment hosted North Manchester’s Animal-Grams, who brought a reindeer named Silver Bells for the public to visit. At the Fire House, visits with Santa and sleigh rides were available for all to enjoy, with lines stretching out the door.
Local musician Clint Olson performed for the crowd on the stage on Pilcher’s Lawn. Photo by Lilli Dwyer, InkFreenews
“I’ve heard that a lot of people look forward to it because it’s a hallmark town event,” said Emily Shipley, president of the North Webster-Tippecanoe Township Chamber of Commerce.
At 5:45 p.m., shortly before the official tree lighting took place, the ATV Light Parade came down Main Street. Drivers waved at spectators from their ATV’s, decorated with bright lights and inflatable Christmas characters.
While the ATV Light Parade is now considered an annual part of the tree lighting celebration, it’s a fairly recent addition. According to Hailey Angel of Jill and Jennifer’s, it started with a few residents who came to the event in their ATVs, then grew and became official in 2019. The tree lighting celebration itself had undergone a transformation the year before, after a hiatus.
Amanda Meerzo, owner of The River Coffeehouse and former Chamber member, had a hand in reviving the celebration.
“It was my kids’ most favorite event in town and I love Christmas, so I wanted to bring it back to the town,” said Meerzo.
The Christmas tree at Pilcher’s rises high into the sky. Cheers went up from the crowd when it was officially lit at 6 p.m.
While the Chamber had been involved in lighting the tree before, Meerzo wanted them to make the event bigger. “I said, ‘let’s make this a big deal,'” she recalled. “Let’s have music here, bring the people, let’s do free hot chocolate and cookies. That was really all we did the first year.”
Since then, the event has only gotten bigger, with more businesses getting involved.
Meerzo continued, “It’s rewarding to me to see people show up to something that was gone for a few years. Everybody wants to be involved now and that’s what makes it special.”
The people of North Webster seemed to agree as they stood on Pilcher’s Lawn with fake candles and counted down to the official lighting of the Christmas tree at 6 p.m., a loud cheer rising into the night when the lights went on.