By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A blustery wind and a winter-like chill couldn’t keep thousands from packing Market Square yesterday afternoon to witness the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony and the first appearance of Santa Claus.
And as in years past, Santa Claus and his wife, Mrs. Claus, arrived in style, hitching a ride with a Coast Guard boat and docking along the boardwalk where thousands of children and their parents were waiting to greet them. Unlike last year, where a thick-as-pea-soup fog blanketed the waterfront, there was no doubting Santa Claus was arriving.
“Do you see Santa, coming by the boat? And Mrs. Claus? There he is!” exclaimed Jana Brinkhaus of Newburyport, holding 2-year-old Kathryn in her arms.
“Hi, Santa! Hi!” Kathryn Brinkhaus shouted.
After hopping into a sleigh, pulled by many of his helpers, Santa and Mrs. Claus toured Market Square, looping around the heavily congested area with musical accompaniment provided by the Triton Regional High School and Newburyport High School marching bands. An old Newburyport firetruck plus Elmo, Winnie-the-Pooh and Frosty the Snowman were also spotted in the parade.
As thousands of people huddled in the chilly November air, a few dozens folks watched the festivities from their heated apartments, businesses or offices high above the square.
Lorraine Connolly, mother of Thirsty Whale co-owner Michael Connolly, was among those enjoying the bird’s-eye view a third-floor apartment above the State Street pub provided.
“It gets bigger and bigger each year,” Connolly, a Plum Island resident, said.
Joining her was her 9-year-old daughter, Zoie Connolly, and family friends, Jerry Smith and her nephew, Barry.
“It’s a beautiful view, unbelievable amount of people,” Smith said.
Zoie Connolly bluntly said why she liked attending the ceremonies from the apartment. “It’s warm and we’ve got a good view.”
Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce President Ann Ormond hosted the tree lighting ceremony and encouraged the crowd to sing along to some of the season’s most treasured classics, including “Jingle Bells,” “Silent Night,” Santa Claus is Coming To Town” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.”
At 4:22 p.m. Ormond began a countdown from 10 and when the crowd reached zero, the city’s Christmas tree, this year donated by Sharon Cronin of West Newbury, became aglow with pretty white lights, drawing a huge round of applause.
“All right, whoooo! Isn’t that beautiful?!” Ormond shouted.