ROGERS CITY - A crowd gathered at Westminster Park in Rogers City for the local Optimists Club's annual lighting of the Christmas trees Wednesday evening.
Despite temperatures in the 20s, spirits were high as Santa arrived in his "sleigh," complete with police escort. He arrived to kick off the holiday season and light the trees by touching together a pair of magic candy canes. The crowd cheered as the trees illuminated on cue, filling the park with festive light.
Before Santa arrived, the audience heard carols from Miss Rogers City and her court. A group of three young sisters sang the National Anthem, and Mayor Beach Hall greeted everyone for the last time as a city official.
News Photo by Jordan Travis
Mike Peltz, Optimists Club of Rogers City president, leads the countdown as Santa lights up the 130 Christmas trees in Rogers City’s Westminster Park with his magic candy canes Wednesday.
"This is a wonderful start to the holidays," he said. "God bless you all, and have a happy Thanksgiving."
Hall reminded everyone about "Light up the City," the Rogers City Area Chamber of Commerce's parade on Friday at 6 p.m.
Before Santa lighted the trees, Optimists Club of Rogers City President Mike Peltz thanked everyone for coming, and acknowledged those who helped make the night possible. The local National Honors Society chapter fought a snowstorm to decorate the 130 trees, which will stay lighted until the end of January. Ted and Cheryl Beck donated new lights for all of them, as they do every year, and individuals, businesses and organizations sponsored the trees. Many are dedicated in memory of a loved one.
"It's to brighten up the town for Christmas," he said afterward. "We have people come from all over to see this."
The night is also a major fundraiser for the Optimists Club, which in turn uses the money to sponsor many youth-related groups and activities, Peltz said. Many people help to put the event together, and Peltz said the entire club is grateful for their support.
"Without the sponsors, we couldn't do this," he said. "It's not only our club, but a lot of other people put effort into it."
Once the trees were lighted, families lined up so their children could sit in Santa's lap and tell him what they wanted. Hot cocoa was available to stave off the chill, courtesy of Peace Lutheran Church. Jennifer Tulgestke was there with Brayden Wirgau, who told Santa he wants some cars and trucks.
His favorite kind? "Monster trucks," he said.
Tulgestke said she comes to the event every year, and enjoys seeing everyone come out to see it. It's also fun to see so many children excited to see Santa, and the trees themselves. She sponsored one last year for a grandparent.
"I think they're beautiful, I think the shapes and everything this year are just amazing," she said.
At the Presque Isle County Historical Museum, open for its holiday exhibits and to serve cookies and punch, museum board member Gale Phelps and her son Jeremy said they were there singing carols.
"Singing and freezing, but it was still beautiful, though," Gale said.
This is Gale's sixth year in town, and she knew Jeremy would love to go to the event, she said. He's the singer in the family, and he surprised her with how well he knew some lesser-known verses of Christmas carols.