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Christmas celebration lights up Watertown


An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people filled Public Square on Friday evening for Watertown’s annual tree lighting, which, along with the illumination of the centerpiece tree, brought musical groups, a parade and plenty of holiday cheer.

The festivities commenced at 5:30 p.m. with a performance by the Jefferson Singers. This year marks the third consecutive tree lighting ceremony in which the 34-member group, all students at Jefferson Community College, has performed.

“The group is great,” said Dennis R. Pucci, the group’s director. “They sing with everything they’ve got, whether or not it’s freezing outside.”

Before the parade or tree lighting had even begun, the crowd’s enthusiasm showed.

“I’m excited to be here for the first time,” said Elizabeth Slack-Joles, Watertown, attending with her family. “They’re really into the spirit of the season.”

Soon afterward, the sirens and roars of police cars and fire trucks kicked off the parade, which Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said was the most impressive he’s seen in the event’s history. Commenting on the paradegoers packed tightly on either side of the street in near-freezing weather, Mr. Graham compared the parade to a sight from New Orleans.

Along with the mayor, state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, was on hand to lead the celebration. The two were joined in the parade by the Watertown Police Department, fire departments from the town and city of Watertown, and floats from local businesses and organizations, including a pirate ship float by the Watertown Privateers, the professional hockey team.

“It’s a wonderful night,” Sen. Richie said. “I’m amazed by the turnout tonight.”

As each float passed by —all announced by emcee Mike “Berky” Berkman — the crowd cheered and throngs of children scrambled to grab candy being given away from many of the floats.

After the parade ended, Mr. Graham led the countdown for the tree lighting.

“It’s an incredible night for Watertown,” Mayor Graham said.

While some of the crowd dispersed, seeking warm shelter or hot beverages, many stayed to hear the Islanders Chorus, a local chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society, an international organization that Tracy Robertson, of Rutland Center, said has more than 25,000 members worldwide.

Mr. Robertson was joined on stage by seven others in the all-male a cappella troupe, singing Christmas carols to the crowd. Mr. Robertson said he believes this is the fifth time the group has performed during the tree lighting and “at least” the third time in a row.

“It was great and the crowd was very enthusiastic,” Mr. Robertson said. “We’re glad we were a part of it.”

Sen. Richie had a similar reaction.

“There were smiles not only on the children, but the adults as well,” she said. “It really made it a wonderful night.”

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