It was more of a wet Christmas than a white one for the annual Light Up Night on Continental Square. Despite the rain, hundreds of people crowded into downtown York for the tree lighting ceremony and First Friday festivities.

Before drawing the name of the child who would get to help flip the switch and illuminate the square, Mayor Kim Bracey reminded people of the reason for the season.

Although she is a Christian, she pointed out that although there are many religions -- such as Judaism, in which Hannukah starts Sunday -- they all talk about being nice to one another.

"So please, for my sake, be nice this year," she said.

She then reached into a container with the names of nearly three dozen children who hoped to be the lucky one selected. Cole Firestone, 9, was the winner. Taking his place on stage next to the mayor and Kyle Joines, student senate president for York College, Cole said afterwards that he was "pretty happy" about the honor.

Joines, a Red Lion native who is a senior majoring in public relations, said after the lighting that the college teaming with the mayor's office and downtown York for the lighting was "part of the initiative to reach out" and "be a vibrant part of the York community."

After the lighting, Bracey read aloud Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem, "'Twas The Night Before Christmas," heralding the arrival of Jolly Old Saint Nick, Santa Claus himself, who arrived not on a miniature sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer but in a York Fire/Rescue Services ladder truck, complete with lights flashing and siren blaring.

Santa, Tom Landis, greets York firefighters Chuck Sleeger, left, and Keith Ramsay, before leaving for Light Up Night in a firetruck Friday.
Santa, Tom Landis, greets York firefighters Chuck Sleeger, left, and Keith Ramsay, before leaving for Light Up Night in a firetruck Friday. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN)

Children who wanted to sit on Santa's lap and whisper their Christmas wishes to him could do so at Martin Memorial Library. Finn Leisses, 5, and his brother, Liam, 2, were downtown with dad, Matt Leisses, in anticipation of being able to ask Santa for those special toys -- for Finn, a scooter, and for Liam, Big Wheels.

Leisses said he and his wife, Heather Klinefelter, owner of Growing Up Green on West Market Street, had been coming downtown for the tree lighting since "before Finn was born," and were happy to see the tradition continue.

"I think it's great. The partnering between the city and downtown businesses is a great opportunity to work together as a community and do a mutual event," he said.

Santa, Tom Landis, waves out of a York Fire/Rescue Services truck as he rides through Continental Square during Light Up Night in York Friday.
Santa, Tom Landis, waves out of a York Fire/Rescue Services truck as he rides through Continental Square during Light Up Night in York Friday. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - KATE PENN)

The tree lighting almost didn't happen, due to a lack of funding, acknowledged Light Up Night event organizer Joan Shultis. Several sponsors, including Kinsley Construction, which was the evening's big sponsor, stepped up to provide the necessary funding, she said. Kinsley was joined by C.S. Davidson, Susquehanna Real Estate, Buchart Horn Inc./Basco Associates and The Grand Group, she added.

She declined to say how much the event costs annually, how much it cost this year, or what the shortfall was.

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