"Well, I hope you all aren't afraid of Santa Claus," the singer teased the crowd.. "Because he'll be here soon!"

This drew a crescendo of squeals and cheers.

A local student group, from the Catonsville Children's' Theater, dressed like a flash mob of Santa's cheerleaders, danced to a Christmas tune on Frederick Avenue. Next came a brief fireworks show, launched from the chimney of the firehouse.

Morgan and fellow organizer Scott Westcoat, owner of Catonsville's Hub Bike Shop on Frederick Road, began a chant picked up by everyone: "San-ta! San-ta! San-ta!"

Next came a countdown to lighting the 18-foot-tall tree.

But the tree lighting was just the warm-up for the younger set, most of whom had by now compiled and memorized their Christmas wish lists.

Tonight, they wouldn't get to sit on Santa's lap and offer up their Christmas gift manifesto. The Santa House is open to do so on Fridays, 6-8 p.m., and Saturdays, 2-4 p.m., before Christmas. The house is also open Sunday, Dec. 22, 2-5 p.m.

But they would get to file past Santa and pause long enough to take a picture and get a candy cane, a hug, a pat on the head.

A fire truck, its lights flashing, turned out of the firehouse and turned on to Frederick Avenue. There, atop the truck, waving, was the man of the hour, greeted with cheers.

Andrew Fowler was there with his mother, Emily, and his younger sister, Lauren. He had his Christmas list ready and planned on returning to the Santa House later in the week to present it to Santa.

Andrew, who attends Relay Elementary School, said he always looks forward to seeing the fireworks and watching Santa Claus arrive.

"I want Legos, and a bike helmet," he said. He said he was confident he would get them. After all, Santa has come through for him in past years.

When he stood in line to meet Santa and get a candy cane, Santa singled him out and told Andrew he liked his Santa hat, something that Andrew took as a good sign.

Andrew's mother says she's been bringing her children to the tree lighting for the past four years.

She said she looks forward to the evening as much as her children. "My husband and I both went to Catonsville High School," she said. "We always run into a lot of people we know. Catonsville really is a great community. You can tell that by all the people who come out for this."