Tree lighting on Friday

Annual party includes songs and Santa

Tim Sonnenfroh of TASCO Services started last Monday on the 80-hour job of stringing up close to 16,000 holiday lights in Main Street’s trees. The effort had a late start “between the hurricane and the two days of snow,” he said. —Macklin Reid photo

The twinkling lights along Main Street will start their season-long shining with Ridgefield’s annual tree lighting ceremony Friday evening, the day after Thanksgiving.

“It starts at 6,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “The Ridgefield Chorale, along with the SPHERE singers, will be entertaining everyone with caroling.”

This will be the second year that SPHERE — Special People’s House, Education, Recreation and Employment — plays a prominent role in the ceremony that takes place in front of town hall.

“About a half hour of caroling,” Mr. Marconi said, “and at 6:30 the countdown starts for the lights.”

This year the honorary flipping of the light switch will be done by the Shlapak family — Jennifer, Jack, and their sons Evan, 11, Ben, 8, and Blake, 5 — whose house was crushed by a falling tree during Storm Sandy.

After Main Street’s lights — the better part of 16,000 of them — are turned on and all the trees lit up, the evening’s most famous personality is expected.

“The weather report is for clear skies and Santa should be on time for approximately a 6:40 arrival,” Mr. Marconi said.

“If he has to come in IFR — instrument flight rules — he may be a little late,” Mr. Marconi said.

Santa and Mrs. Claus are expected to arrive at town hall in a fire truck — lights flashing, sirens blaring — from a sleigh landing site that Mr. Marconi declined to specify.

Santa will make his way through the crowds to the lower level conference room of town hall, off Bailey Avenue, where he will be available to greet children and listen to their wishes.

Although more money will be needed, Barbara Manners of the Holiday Trust Fund said that donations in support of the village lights had been stronger so far than last year, with well over 200 donations amounting to more than $14,000 by mid-November.

“Many are first-time donors sending in $10 and $25 dollars, some are repeat donors upping their contributions to the next level from previous donation,” she said.

The tree lighting often draws crowds that swell across to the far side of Main Street — although the highway is not closed and traffic continues to flow, so parents need to keep a close watch on small children.

Early in the week the weather outlook appeared relatively favorable for a good turnout.

“High 30s, clear night, maybe a little bit chilly,” Mr. Marconi said. “Hopefully, everyone will be up for a lot of fun and greeting Santa on his arrival.”

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