Thousands View Tree-Lighting At Constitution Plaza In Hartford
November 28, 2009
HARTFORD — - Thousands of spectators streamed into Constitution Plaza Friday to mark the start of the holiday season by listening to carols and taking in the more than 250,000 lights adorning the trees.
Huddling together against the cold, many couples and their children watched as Santa Claus and performers took the stage during the 46th annual Festival of Light, which culminated with the lighting of a giant Christmas tree.
It has been a tradition for the city since 1963, and this year organizers tweaked the opening ceremony to include a live performance by 9-year-old Connie Talbot from the TV show " Britain's Got Talent." The Hartford Children's Theatre also took part in the holiday performance.
"We didn't want to do the Black Friday rush, so we decided to check it out," said Jim Markovitz, who watched the show with his wife and two young children.
This was the first year the celebration featured a manufactured "green" tree instead of a live one. Organizers say they will add a 4-foot ring to the base each year to give the illusion that the tree is growing. It was also the first time the Christmas tree was decorated with colored lights, rather than just white.
Jon Weeks had been trying to bring his family out for years, but their different schedules never allowed it. This year they arrived with plenty of time to watch the plaza glow.
"They like the lights more than anything," Weeks, of Middletown, said of his 5- and 3-year-old daughters.
As people get into the holiday spirit, organizers are hoping they also remember those in need. Volunteers at the festival collected toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program.
"With [a growing number of people in] Connecticut being out of work, we don't want the kids to be impacted as well," said Catherine Grill, a spokeswoman for the Greater Hartford Arts Council, which organized the event. Toys will be collected at a variety of locations in the Greater Hartford area through Dec. 10. For a complete list, visit LetsGoArts.org/ToysforTots.
Beginning today, the plaza will host Santa each Saturday before Christmas, when children and their families can meet Santa Claus at the State House Square atrium.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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