New Windsor gathered in the park near Town Hall last night and wished itself a happy holiday.
The mayor donned a red stocking cap. Boy Scouts recited poetry in halting voices. Members of a children's choir, wrapped in hooded parkas and thick mittens, easily out-sang the chill December wind.
About 200 townspeople passed around a flame and used it to light the candles each held. The light from the candles reflected on each face in the crowd.
For the sixth year, Councilwoman Rebecca H. Harman organized the Christmas tree lighting, a program that draws a larger gathering each year.
Mayor Jack A. Gullo Jr. welcomed the crowd and told the story of the journey of the Magi.
The only gift the town seeks is a sense of community, Gullo said. He thanked the participants for "adding your talents to our community. The best gift you can give your community is to be part of it."
Pam Kazer moved to New Windsor from California four years ago. She has brought her children to the celebration each year and she echoed the mayor's words.
"There is such a sense of community and family here," she said.
The mayor threw the switch that turned on the 1,500 multicolored lights that adorn the 20-foot-tall pine. It took Dick Wilson and his small crew more than a day to decorate the tree in the snow last week.
"It was cold but worth it," he said. "It put us in the Christmas spirit."
Taking off the decorations after the holidays -- it takes a little more than an hour -- will be much easier, Wilson said.
From a stage that faced the tree, the Boy Scouts took turns reading verses from a poem.
Kazer's son Mason, 4, saw many of his friends on the platform and
asked loudly, "Why are all those kids up there?"
His mother quieted him just as Strawbridge Children's Choir opened with "Come On, Ring Those Bells."
The children, who range in age from 4 to 12, elicited laughter and applause with their lively performance.
"I am so tickled with them," Harman said. "Their facial expressions are joyful and they are keeping time with the music. What a wonderful gift they are to us."
The choir was a real crowd-pleaser. The voices of choir members carried so well that even those on the fringes of the crowd heard the lyrics.
Merriment shone on the singers' faces, particularly the youngest, who filled the front row.
They followed their director intently, swaying with the music and beating tambourines. They giggled occasionally. None showed stage fright.
"They sing everywhere and have no worries about performing," said June Keck, who directs the 20-member choir along with Dawn Hollingworth. "There is no shyness here."
When the children concluded their program with "Let There Be Peace on Earth," they started a community sing-along. Harman ended the outdoor program with a reading of a Native American carol that she had found in an old Methodist hymnal. It began:
L Twas in the moon of wintertime, when all the birds had fled.
The mighty Great Spirit sent angel choirs instead.
Hot cocoa and about 50 batches of homemade cookies promised warmth and conviviality a short walk away at Town Hall.
Pub Date: 12/05/96