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Festive stroll kicks off season

It's official. The New Canaan holiday season is here.

Even with the scattered rain showers and cold temperature, the ninth annual Holiday Stroll & Tree Lighting Ceremony kicked off Friday night with live performances, a visit from Santa Claus and the official lighting of the downtown trees.

The turnout was not as big as in past years, but Tucker Murphy, the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event, was glad people took out their umbrellas and raincoats and came downtown to party with other strollers.

"Despite the weather, this is a great turnout," Murphy, who was also celebrating her birthday Friday, said. "This time of the year reminds me that New Canaan is a very special place."

First Selectman Robert Mallozzi joined Murphy on the stage, which was set up at the intersection of Elm Street and South Avenue. Mallozzi was wearing his now-traditional bright green Christmas-themed pants.

He said this time of the year is scary to him. "I never know if I'm going to fit in these pants."

The party started at 5:30 p.m. with the Saxe Middle School saxophone band playing Christmas songs. More Christmas carols followed with students of The Studio and Carter Norton's Magical Music Singers. Children also performed the play "Two Little Snow Flakes."

The downtown trees were officially lit just before 7 p.m., when Santa, Mrs. Claus and Elf arrived.

The stroll also featured complimentary beverages, snacks and soup, a gingerbread house tour, and other attractions. The Make-a-Wish Foundation set up a table outside Baskin-Robbins so people could write letters to Santa.

For those who arrived after 6 p.m., finding a parking spot was not easy. Part of the problem was the Town Hall lot, which is closed for renovations. Elm Street was also blocked off from traffic and parking.

Strollers Rocky and Kathie Hardwood said it took them a while to find a parking space but it was worth it. They said they always run into friends and like watching the children perform.

"It's a wonderful Christmas event," Kathie said. "The kids are adorable."

The two-day event continued Saturday.

For the past few weeks, the chamber had been requesting donations to meet the $21,000 cost of keeping the tree lights on through the holidays. As of Friday, about 95 percent of the amount had been donated, according to Laura Budd, marketing associate for the chamber. Read Full Article 

"Residents and businesses have been extremely generous," she said. "We just need a few more donations to hit that number."

The cost is so high because it includes 50 trees and 400 strands of light, 150 hours of manpower, day-to-day maintenance, and replacing and fixing light bulbs and other equipment.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

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Nelson Oliveira

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