CORTLAND — As everyone continues to chip away at Thanksgiving leftovers, the city of Cortland helped usher in the Christmas season during Saturday’s second downtown tree-lighting event.
Riding down West Main Street in a horse-drawn carriage, Santa and Mrs. Claus drew cheers and awestruck looks from children as they took their seats.
“Mommy, let’s go see Santa Claus,” one little girl shouted as she immediately ushered her parents into the line to tell the couple what’s on her wish list and to receive a gift bag.
Amid sunshine and mild temperatures, crowds were treated to free carriage rides, made Christmas ornaments to decorate the tree and enjoyed food from local vendors including Lil Orbits, which was serving mini doughnuts made fresh.
Roaming around the event keeping spirits up were Frosty the Snowman and the Grinch, who were passing out treats to children in line.
Coordinating the event, which corresponded with Small Business Saturday, was Just Pizzelles owner Christina Benton and husband, Alan Benton.
“If we didn’t have local support, let alone Small Business supporters, we would not be in business. It is very big,” Christina said. “So it’s not only a great time to celebrate the holidays but also local business. These people here today are ones we’ve connected with for years.”
The shop has operated in Cortland for 11 years and Christina said the best part is seeing how people relate to her family recipe, which she’s tweaked over the years. She said the best part of her job is hearing the stories of people recalling memories of making pizzelles with their mothers and grandmothers.
Alison and Michael Dargento of Cortland said they moved back to the area from California last year and brought their 1-year-old son, Wesley, to their first family experience of the annual event.
“This reminds me of a Hallmark Christmas movie,” Alison said, failing to mask her excitement through a smile on her face. “We’re here for the Christmas tree lighting and, of course, Wesley needs to see Santa.”
The couple said they looked forward to getting back into the Christmas spirit with the cold weather, a far cry from the heat they’ve grown accustomed to in California.
Many in attendance shuddered at the thought of the snowy, slushy scene that breezed through the event last year.
Bob White of Kingsville, who was manning the carriage rides recalled, “Despite the weather, people didn’t quit last year. No matter how cold, they hung in there, so we did too.”
His daughter, Kellie Rettinger, and her husband train their horses at Whispery Pines Percheron Farm in Ashtabula County from the age of 2 and the family business sees them traveling all across the state and internationally showing off their horses.
Two of their horses are set to become local movie stars as they will be starring in a Lifetime movie titled, “A Merry Single Christmas” shot in the Cleveland suburb of Berea.
The night’s festivities concluded with students from the Lakeview High School choir and band singing Christmas carols during the night’s main event — the tree-lighting ceremony.
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