AUBURN — Santa arrived in New Auburn Sunday evening, his light-up sleigh escorted by Auburn Engine 2, an Auburn ambulance and the Marshall’s Popcorn Truck to Sullivan Square for the annual tree-lighting ceremony, put on by the United New Auburn Association.
Saint Nick’s entourage proceeded down South Main Street, past Raymond Park, down Broad Street and around to the Rolly’s Diner parking lot, where an unofficial tally of around 300 kids and adults greeted the jolly one with a cheer.
It was a mild December evening and despite recent rain, there was still plenty of snow for kids to run through and climb on behind Rolly’s Diner, where the tree- lighting took place, following a countdown by Santa himself.
Leroy Walker of the United New Auburn Association was out early, as were many local business owners, preparing music, coffee, hot chocolate and a variety of sweets for the kids.
“We’ve been working hard at it, trying to get everything set up,” Walker said. “We have businesses, people that help us along.”
When asked if there were still any hard feelings about moving the New Auburn Christmas tree from Vincent Square to Sullivan Square, Walker was upbeat.
“No,” he said. “Everyone’s really pleased because we named the square ‘Sullivan Square.'”
The park was officially named in 2012 after Dennis J. “Dinny” Sullivan who, with his son, John J. Sullivan, owned a variety store on the site for years.
“People are happy now because we decorate that park — the United New Auburn Association decorates the whole park,” Walker said. “The city decorates the tree.”
Walker said, “We always add more to it because we like to have it nice and bright and ready for the kids, so we added another two sets of lights on it — it makes it really nice for the people and the kids. They come to see Santa Claus arrive.”
Isaiah Perry, 5, of Auburn looked forward to getting his hands on some hot chocolate. He pointed toward the illuminated reindeer, particularly the lead reindeer with the red nose.
“I watched that movie!” Perry exclaimed.
When asked what he was going to ask Santa for, Perry’s excitement grew.
“A race car — a ree-car a forwinittachtoit, varoom,” he said.
As his exuberant description went on, it was accompanied by an interpretive dance of what driving such a car would be like. With later clarification, it was understood that it was a remote-control race car that Perry desired.
Lindee Woodsum, 4, of Auburn aimed high for her request.
“I told him I want a pony — a real pony.”
When asked about her favorite part of Christmas, Woodsum said she liked ice skating. Suddenly, as if triggering remembrance of something left off the wish list, Woodsum quickly turned toward her mother and said, “Um — Mommy, I wish I had ice skates.”
Other fond Christmas memories in the making for Woodsum were helping bake cookies and decorating the family tree to which she jubilantly responded, “Yes! Light them lights.”
When not handing out candy canes to the crowd, Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said, “Our community is blessed to have volunteers like those in the New Auburn neighborhood who spend the time to put together events like this for families.”
“Seeing smiles on the faces of young children is a good reminder that there’s still magic in the Christmas season,” LaBonte said.