On the evening of Nov. 18, more than 200 residents and visitors of the town of Occoquan gathered in front of town hall to light the town’s Christmas tree.
At 8:10 p.m. Mayor Earnie Porta thanked the crowd, saying, “Without you all, this night would not be successful; without you, our business community would not be successful.”
Mayor Porta explained that everyone should count down from five to zero. The crowd counted together, at which point young Allie and Adrianna flipped the switch. At the zero moment, the crowd held their breath. There was a slight delay, but then the tree was aglow.
The tree lighting corresponded with the Occoquan Business Guild’s Annual Open House, in which visitors were encouraged to shop the stores which had stayed open late, and welcomed guests with finger food and holiday lights.
After the tree lighting some of the crowd headed to the Hawthorne House, where many people won gift cards to use at the various Occoquan businesses.
This year, town volunteers decorated the tree. Volunteers included Kristyn Gleeson of Polka-Dot-Divas, Julie Marshall, Dough Kittell, Andrea and Rick Coulson.
“I came to see my hard work lit up,” said Kittell, who was in attendance of the tree lighting along with his pit-bull, Tyson, dressed as Santa Claus.
Not to be outdone, the “real” Santa was also in Occoquan, meeting the crowd and taking pictures with children.
Town volunteers were also present, ringing bells and collecting money for the Salvation Army. It is an initiative the town government began last year.
At 8:30 people were still gathered around the tree taking pictures. Three generations of the Terrell family from Lake Ridge were among them.
“It’s actually setting the whole holiday season into motion- thankfulness, spending time with the community and drinking hot apple cider,” said Joy Terrell.
Mayor Porta said that this is the third year in row that they have held the tree lighting on the last Friday before Thanksgiving Day. Before then Occoquan lit the tree at the beginning of December, but since 2009, they changed the date to promote the Guild’s Open House night.