Ridgefield tree lighting ceremony kicks off holiday season

The annual tree-lighting ceremony that takes place in front of town hall marks the beginning of Ridgefield’s holiday season.

The event will take place on the same date (the Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29), at the same time (carolers will start warming up the crowd around 5:30 p.m.) and feature the usual cast of characters (Santa, Mrs. Claus and emcee Ira Joe Fisher).

“Ira Joe has signed up to be our master of ceremonies again, and he will start at 6. Santa will come into town with Mrs. Claus shortly thereafter. It’s been closer to 6:30 in the past, it may be a little earlier depending on the weather and traffic,” said First Selectman Rudy Marconi.

This year’s honoree — the person who throws the switch and lights up the trees downtown from Governor Street to Prospect Street — will actually be two people, but their identities haven’t yet been revealed.

“We like to keep that a secret,” Marconi said.

Main Street will be closed off for a temporary period of time when Santa arrives.

“We try to keep Main Street as open as much as possible,” Marconi said. “We want to give people the incentive to drive into town, not drive them away.”

While not necessarily a holiday shopping event (that’s more the goal of the Holiday Stroll the following Friday), “Bright Friday” does attract hundreds to Ridgefield’s historic Main Street. Some shopkeepers — including the Toy Chest, the Purple Frog and the Books on the Common — stay open later in recognition of the big crowds and the town’s special visitor from the North Pole.

The goal is to keep residents shopping local rather than leave them to complete Black Friday shopping at big retail stores in the mall.

“The tree-lighting ceremony and the Stroll are two of our busiest shopping days of the year,” Marconi said.

Crowds tend to gather around 6 p.m. for the lighting and music.

“Ira Joe takes the mic at 6 o’clock and then there’s a big countdown to the pulling of the switch,” Marconi said. “And that’s right before Santa comes down Catoonah Street.”

Santa typically stays for about 10 minutes to pose for a couple of pictures before heading to Lounsbury House. Kids who want pictures with Santa can find him at Lounsbury House until about 8:30.

“He usually stays until there are no more kids left,” Marconi said. “Ridgefield’s the only place he’s visiting that night.”

In total, Ridgefield’s downtown boasts more than 17,000 lights. The event will feature performances from four different singing groups.

“The Ridgefield Holiday Trust Fund pays for the cost of the lights and stringing them onto the trees,” Marconi said. “I can’t thank them and the American Legion and all the scouts, who decorate all the lampposts in town, for all the work they do. Their work is very commendable and helps make this event special every single year.”