NEW BREMEN — An area village held its annual holiday kick off ceremony Thursday evening, officially turning on its holiday lights.
The New Bremen-New Knoxville Rotary’s Christmas Tree Lighting was Thursday in Lock One Park, and it included hot chocolate, cookies and a visit from Santa.
“Good evening and welcome to the 2011 New Bremen Christmas tree lighting,” Rotarian Kristin Hough said, kicking off the annual event. “On behalf of all the members of the New Bremen-New Knoxville Rotary Club, I’d like to thank everybody for coming out and for sharing this great experience with us.”
She introduced the Rev. Becky Erb Strang with St. Paul United Church of Christ in New Bremen who led those gathered in Lock One Park in a prayer.
“Holy and gracious God, we thank you that you are our God of light and love, and we gather tonight as your people,” she said. “As we journey through Advent toward Christmas, we ask your blessings of peace, joy, hope and love fill us this season. Open our hearts that we might hear the cries of those who are hungry, those who are hurting and those who are alone at Christmas and other times. Make us instruments of your hope for others. As we light the Christmas tree, may your glory be illumined in our hearts. In Jesus Christ’s name we pray, amen.”
Following the Rev. Strang, New Bremen Mayor Jeff Pape spoke, also welcoming those in attendance.
“I want to welcome everyone to our annual Christmas tree lighting,” he said. “I want to thank the Rotary and Kristin for putting this all together again. It’s a real good crowd. I’m glad to see you all again here.”
Pape also noted the lack of rain — and snow — during this year’s event.
“And it’s a lot warmer than usual,” he said. “Usually it’s snowing and our feet are freezing.”
He also noted the presence of Strang and a prayer this year.
“I liked leading off with the real reason for the season, and I want to thank Rev. Strang for taking care of that for us,” he said.
Pape then introduced the next element of the ceremony.
“At this time, we’ll let the choir sing a couple songs first and then we’ll get onto the rest of lighting the Christmas tree,” he said.
The New Bremen High School Concert Choir sang first, followed by the inclusion of additional students for the New Bremen High School Mixed Choir, who sang a few Christmas carols.
Pape then took the mic again, readying the crowed for the lighting of the tree.
“We better get to it, Santa Claus is coming,” he said. “Oh boy, you kids are ready. I think he’s around here somewhere. I’m not sure where. He always seems to come as soon as I turn this light on, so we’re going to do what we always do.”
Pape noted a village employee was ready with the switch
“Wayne’s back there — Administrator York is going to turn on all the hard work that our village employees have done to put the lights on,” he said. “It’s worked every year, and I know it’s going to work this year.”
Pape led the crowd in a countdown from 10 — turning the village’s holiday lights on for the first time.
“Before I give it back to the choir, I do want to announce there is a function at the Lockkeeper’s House,” Pape noted. “The historical society has got some Christmas trees and things inside, and I hear it’s really nice. I haven’t seen it, but that’s where I’m going after this, so hopefully you’ll all get over there. And there’s cookies and hot chocolate back there.”
Santa then arrived, visiting with the children gathered in the park and handing out candy canes, while the choir sang a few more songs.