Santa in the park lights up downtown Orange

  • Caden Nutter, 5, poses for a photo with Santa during the annual Santa in the Park event on Friday night at Memorial Park in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Christmas lights are turned on Friday night to illuminate Memorial Park for the holiday season in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Christmas lights are turned on Friday night to illuminate Memorial Park for the holiday season in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Matthew Hamberg, 9, talks with Santa during the annual Santa in the Park event on Friday night at Memorial Park in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Nicole Wetherby, Tracy Songer, and Connie Perry pose for a picture with Santa and Charles Dickens during the annual Santa in the Park event on Friday night at Memorial Park in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Members of the Orange Merchants Group pose for a photo with Santa and Charles Dickens during the annual Santa in the Park event on Friday night at Memorial Park in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Holiday lights hang over the Millers River on Friday night in Orange. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2019 8:22:49 AM

ORANGE — Next time you pass over the Millers River downtown, stop and look out across the water. You will see, hanging above and stretching across the river, a lights display with two reindeer on each side of a shining Christmas wreath.

The “skyline” lights display with the reindeer, as well as the shrubbery, trees and lamp posts surrounding Memorial Park were all lit up with new decorations for the first time Friday, at Orange’s annual “Santa in the park” or “Santa comes to Orange” event, held each year on the day after Thanksgiving.

It was a chilly night, but around 5:30 p.m. Friday, dozens of families, many with children, huddled around the central war memorial at the park, sipping hot cocoa as they waited in the dark.

Then, the moment came that everyone was waiting for. A fire truck drove up and eager faces watched as Santa Claus, brilliant in his red suit, hopped out of the massive vehicle. The big man’s booming voice carried across the park as he started a count-down, “Three, two, one!”

And it happened. In an instant the park lit up with lights of green, red and blue, and strands of traditional white holiday lights flickered on. For the first time, the reindeer were visible, smiling as they hung across the river.

Naturally, the crowd burst into a joyful chorus of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

“We’re really excited,” said Brenda Anderson of Trail Head Outfitter & General Store. “For the first year Orange Merchants Group has done it, it is going great.”

The lights and decorations in downtown Orange were made possible by the Orange Merchants Group, a voluntary collection of local businesses that raised $7,000 to buy and install the commercial-grade lights. Not a penny came from the town’s budget, and the “Santa in the park event” became a symbol of community and giving, according to Anderson.

“And there’s a lot of people here, even though it’s cold,” she said, as children lined up behind her to sit on Santa’s lap and answer the pertinent question, “What do you want for Christmas?”

The lights in downtown Orange were strung by members of the community, who had to use a bucket truck to place hard-to-reach decorations. The Orange Fire Department had to use its rescue boat and 10 people to get the reindeer display up over the Millers River.

They were proud of their work.

“This one came out great,” said Paul Colon, admiring one of the trees at Memorial Park that he helped string with lights.

For the largest tree, it took a boom truck and wrapping the lights around “about 500 times,” Colon said, but it was worth it.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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