By Zach Sparks
In a celebration rivaled only by that of the fictitious, hand-holding, carol-singing Whos of Whoville, the Pasadena Business Association held its annual tree lighting ceremony on December 4. Families and neighbors gathered at Lakeshore Plaza to play games, share jokes, shuffle to line dances, meet Santa and watch the 18-foot Frasier fur light up for the first time this holiday season.
Employees from Two Rivers Steak & Fish House and Mutiny Pirate Bar & Island Grille passed cookies to jolly kids and adults. The Greene Turtle served hot chocolate. Teens and their younger siblings danced in front of the stage.
Despite the 35-degree temperature, the tree lighting drew the typical crowd of several hundred attendees, according to event chair Doug Cashmere of Costello’s Ace Hardware & Hearth.
“I thought it was very well attended,” Cashmere said. “The community loves it.”
Among those in the crowd was Dennis Bryant, who attends every year with his wife, son and daughter. All of the Bryants wore necklaces of colored bulbs and Bryant’s son donned a red reindeer nose.
“It’s just a way to be festive and embarrass my teenage daughter,” Bryant joked. “It’s really a great community event.”
After being serenaded by carols from the Northeast High vocal ensemble and music from DJ Marcus, the crowd was ready to witness the tree’s illumination. Delegate Nic Kipke provided the countdown amid a chorus of cheers. Perched behind the Frasier fur, members of Riviera Beach Volunteer Fire Company used a ladder to place the star atop the tree. Minutes later, a bright sleigh surfaced near Safeway. Lake Shore Volunteer Fire Company ushered Santa, toy sack in hand, past the throngs of families and to his seat on the grass.
“It’s nice to see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” said Roger Gordon, chief at Lake Shore Volunteer Fire Company. “It’s our chance to do something for the community.”
Firefighter and emergency medical technician Jesse Wright agreed, saying, “Just to be a part of it is an honor.”
Many kids looked honored to meet St. Nick, who listened to their wish lists as Mojo Web Solutions snapped photos. Macaroni Kid provided games. Bruster's Real Ice Cream offered treats. To keep pets from feeling left out, Calvert Veterinary Center gave out dog bones.
Many groups collaborated to set up. Pasadena Signs and Gable donated equipment to reach the higher branches of the tree. Costello's Ace Hardware was the biggest contributor, clearing the area and helping to decorate the tree. Ace also provided three games, a balloon animal maker, a craft table and employees to man those tables.
Eastern District police officers and reserve officers, under the direction of Corporal Dave Bellis, controlled traffic and maintained a peaceful environment.
The inaugural tree lighting in 2010 — a last-minute celebration to gauge community interest — drew a crowd of more than 400 attendees despite the below-freezing temperature. That event showed that Pasadena was yearning for an event like this, and residents have continued to prove that to be true.
“It seems like it gets bigger and bigger every year,” said Brian Gregg, chief of the Rivera Beach Volunteer Fire Company.