The heavy rain and wind couldn’t stop Santa from visiting Rochester on December 9.
While the town’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony is traditionally held on the town green, the less-than-ideal weather moved many of the activities indoors to the nearby Fellowship Hall of the First Congregational Church.
The church’s bells chimed “Little Drummer Boy” while revelers dodged the rain, heading to the hall for performances from the Rochester Memorial School chorus and band.
Parents, students, and siblings packed the Fellowship Hall to the rafters, but the Rochester Memorial School band and chorus had no trouble performing in the tight space of the hall. Band director Christine Williamson led her students through “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and then moved into Christmas fare, including “Jingle Bells” and “O Christmas Tree.” They were followed by the RMS chorus, who performed their own carols.
The heavy rain, which nearly washed out some roads near the town center, prevented Santa Claus from making his customary entrance in a fire truck. Instead, Santa took cover inside the front door of the Town Hall where he greeted all visitors with cheery words and a candy cane.
“Welcome!” he called out to one member of the school chorus. “That was wonderful singing, I heard it! What do you think of the tree? It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”
Wary of the weather, organizers cut short the tree lighting ceremony as well. Normally, a fifth-grade student is recognized for his or her holiday poster and invited to flip the switch that will illuminate the town’s Christmas tree. This year, organizers turned the lights on without ceremony, illuminating the tree as revelers sprinted through the rain and huddled under umbrellas to meet Saint Nick.
After the children (and their grown-ups) said hello to Santa, the visitors moved to the Town Hall’s meeting room. There, the members of the Board of Selectmen, as well as Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar, waited with cookies, eggnog, and apple cider. Armed with holiday treats, the families took in the artwork created by Rochester Memorial’s fifth-grade students before spilling back into the rainy almost-winter night.
By Andrea Ray