ELMSFORD, N.Y. Families huddled under space heaters, dressed in downed coats and fleece hats as they listened to students from the Alice E. Grady Elementary School's band. Members of the chorus wore Santa hats, reindeer earmuffs and blinking Rudolph noses. Even in the 40 degree weather, infants giggled to the sound of Christmas tunes while parents sipped cups of hot chocolate.
Mayor Robert Williams stood at the podium when the music concluded and asked for help counting down to the annual tree lighting.
"Ten," he shouted, with the masses joining in until the countdown was completed. "Three, two, one."
With loud cheers, squeals and laughter, the tree was aglow. Ruby red, indigo blue, emerald green and shimmery gold bulbs laced the tree, brightening the wintry evening.
"The tree lighting has been happening forever literally," Williams said. "It's been handed down from administration to administration."
Suddenly, a fire truck was heard down the street. As it approached with flashing lights, a wave of children screamed, running towards the sidewalk in anticipation, jumping up and down. The truck was Santa's makeshift sleigh, and they yelled out to him as he waved.
But in a flash, he was gone to the Senior Center for cookies, more hot chocolate, waiting for Elmsford's good boys and girls. Over 600 residents formed a line wrapping around Village Hall, anticipating the horse and carriage rides. The horses arrived in pairs and followed Santa to a warmer site.
"We've been doing horse rides for five or six years now," said Williams. "Traditionally, it's been a two-hour wait for the last person in line to get onto the carriage ride. And they wait the entire time. Nobody leaves. It's really neat."
Upbeat Christmas carols streamed over the sound system, wishing every scarf-wrapped and glove-wearing attendee "a Merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart!"
"It's cool," said Williams. He added, the tree lighting, Memorial Day and Elmsford Day are probably the biggest events we do with the most people. Everybody has a great time."
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