Robbie Short

Several days of rain let up just in time to ensure that the annual New Haven Tree Lighting Celebration would not face the same wet weather as it did last year.

The event, which took place on the New Haven Green Thursday evening, featured food, rides and other activities open to the public. The 65-foot tree, which Wells Fargo bank donated this year, stood across from a stage where choirs from local schools Conte/West Hills, Betsy Ross Magnet, Wayfarer Ministries and Fair Haven K-8 performed. Each year, the tree is decorated with 30,000 colored lights, Bill Carone, deputy director of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said.

A Ferris wheel and carousel bookended the Green, and a Toys for Tots truck was on site to accept toy and food donations. Attendees could visit Santa Claus, take pictures with characters such as “Frozen’s” Olaf the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and enjoy carriage rides and a petting zoo.

“My favorite part is having the singers on the stage,” Carone said.

While this was Carone’s first year helping organize the event, as he started his duties in August, he said some members of the staff had worked on the event each winter for the past 25 years. Carone discussed the maintenance work he and his staff undertook to prepare for the event, which included a complete cleanup of the Green, filling potholes in walkways on the Green, decorating the tree and setting up the stage. Their expectations for a big turnout were met, as community members of all ages came together in celebration.

Though not many Yale students were among the several hundred attendees, Hannah Weisman ’20 participated in the festivities.

“It was a good way to get out and be part of the greater community, especially since it was so close to campus,” she said.

Some attendees took part in a make-your-own holiday ornament station, while others sampled snacks from food trucks and stalls from around the area. Carone added that the event was geared toward families, university students, local workers and residents of surrounding towns.

“Made in New Haven,” one of the tents at the tree lighting displayed a variety of products created or produced locally. Showcased items included soaps, juices and calendars conveying scenic sites around the Elm City. Photographer Chris Randall, a longtime attendee of the festival, shot the images on the calendars that were for sale.

“So many different types of people join [the event] in excitement and anticipation,” he said.

Now middle-aged, Randall remarked that the event had been held for “as long as I can remember.” Randall said he always returns because he enjoys taking photographs of the tree lighting and its attendees.

Carone echoed Randall’s sentiment, noting that the tree lighting is a special night and is important to the New Haven community.

“It shows peace and unity for the city,” Randall said. “It’s a time to reflect.”

The event is co-hosted by the City of New Haven, the Department of Arts, Culture and Tourism and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Trees.