At about 6 p.m. Saturday, a decades-long tradition was renewed in Perryville when the Holly Tree near Jackson Station Road was lit up in festive glory.
The event still gets to Trish Sexton, the secretary/treasurer of the Cecil County Holly Tree Corporation, who has been helping organize the lighting for as long as she can remember.
"I enjoy the music, but nothing tops the moment when the lights come on," Sexton said. "It gets me choked up every time."
"The moment the lights come on, it's a whole new ambience," Sexton added.
The event began at 4 p.m. with performances from different local musicians. At 5:45, the Perryville High School marching band arrived playing music in a procession with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Santa and his wife then proceeded to the stage along with members of Brownie Troop 118. Before the lighting began, Sexton's father, Rev. William Hawley Sr., read a benediction.
"Thank you lord for all of the people who preserve the history of the Holly Tree," Hawley said as part of the benediction.
Then, the countdown to the lighting began, with guests Frank Rinaldi and Courtney Barrett from the Ray of Hope Mission ready to flip the switch. When the countdown reached zero, the tree suddenly sparkled with festive cheer.
That's what brings many families to see the tree each year, as an estimated 400 people, including performers, came to see the lighting this year. Kelsey McCardell brought her little sister, Riley, and young cousin, Chase.
"They really like the Christmas tree," McCardell said. "They're so excited, and they've been begging me to come."
McCardell says she comes to the tree lighting almost every year.
"If I don't come to the lighting, I try to come see the tree," McCardell said.
Matt Molitor and Nicole Steele from North East come every year with their 7-year-old son, Xia.
"I grew up coming down here," Molitor said. "[The tree] is getting smaller and smaller every year, but it's something. It's a part of Cecil County history."
Sexton hopes the lighting continues with local support for years to come.
"In our community, I want this tradition to mean to everyone as much as it means to me," Sexton said. "I just want this tradition to continue on."