The weather outside was frightful, but more than 100 people stood in a vacant lot amid construction barrels and dying grass in New Windsor last night, watching the flames flicker against an icy breeze from the candles they held.
As strings of multi-colored lights brightened the clear sky above the decorated pine at the corner of Routes 31 and 75, town residents huddled for warmth and celebrated the annual Christmas tree lighting and holiday program.
"This is what New Windsor is about, standing out in the cold, celebrating community," Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. told the crowd.
He he equated their presence in New Windsor with the acceptance of Joseph and Mary into Bethlehem, and said he hoped they would extend their sense of community to newcomers in the growing town.
"I ask that you accept those people into our community, because you never know what offering they may bring," the mayor said.
Councilwoman Rebecca H. Harman, who created the event several years ago, again organized the seasonal program that filled the quiet streets with music and laughter.
Lynn Blacksten's flute rendition of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas" delighted the audience, which hummed and whistled along with her as she played.
The recitation of " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by the Sams Creek 4H Club, and holiday songs performed by New Windsor Lions Club, added to the festive atmosphere.
The program concluded with June Keck leading the group in holiday carols including "Silent Night" and "O, Come All Ye Faithful."
Mr. Gullo plugged in the tree lights as part of the mayor's traditional duty at the start of the festivities.
Later, he invited everyone to the fire hall for cookies he and his girlfriend, Sue Six -- whom he called "the first lady of New Windsor"-- had baked.