The Durham Parks and Recreation Department hosted its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. in an effort to bring the community together and spread holiday cheer.

Main Street was adorned with wreaths and lights that illuminated children’s faces and lit up the surroundings.

This event proved to be family friendly and allowed community members to mingle with small businesses that set up tables and offered different amenities and activities.

“It was all a good community effort here to make it all happen,” Durham Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Gasowski said.

Kappa Sigma smiles with Santa at the Durham Christmas tree lighting.

Kappa Sigma smiles with Santa at the Durham Christmas tree lighting.

According to Gasowski, tables at the event were set up by local businesses and organizations, including Bikram Yoga Durham, the Durham Professional Firefighters, the Main Street Makery, the Candy Bar, Emery Farm and many others. A “Photo-bus” photo booth was also available. The public works department was responsible for the bonfire and Christmas tree, and a Parks and Rec. board member sang Christmas music.

“Kappa Sigma is here to volunteer. They really help out with our three core events: Durham Day [the community fall celebration at Wagon Hill], our Spooktacular Halloween event and the Christmas tree lighting; helping man a few stations that the Parks and Rec. Department put on,” Gasowski said.

Kappa Sigma members were scattered throughout the ceremony handing out s’mores and decorative plastic Santa molds with colored sand.

“It’s good to help out the community and give back and see the kids playing in the snow and eating s’mores. It’s good to get into the holiday spirit,” sophomore and Kappa Sigma member Jake Bergonzi said while manning the s’mores station.

“Four years ago we started reaching out to the community and we particularly hit it off with the Parks and Rec. Department helping out with events like the Spooktacular Halloween we just did at the ice rink where we had games, kids in costumes, skating, carving pumpkins…those seasonal types of things,” sophomore civil engineering major and Kappa Sigma President-elect Tom Libby said.

Some attendees take advantage of the photo booth.

Some attendees take advantage of the photo booth.

According to Libby, everything at the event was donated by local businesses.

The Bikram Yoga studio, which is fairly new to Durham and co-owned by Brandy Higgins and Mike Keevan, served hot cider at the event.

“Hot yoga, hot cider, right?” Higgins said.

“We wanted to get out here and connect with the community. We wouldn’t have a studio if we didn’t have a community, so this is a way we are saying thanks; by showing that we want to give back to the community as much as we are given,” Keevan said.

The studio just celebrated their one-year anniversary on Oct. 30 and is still running hot.

“You are the generation that I am going to get to change the world and it has been such an incredible life-changing experience for me. For those customers I have, it is the most amazing gift I can share,” Higgins said.

UNH senior recreation management and policy major Kevin Roake began working for the Durham Parks and Rec. Department after volunteering for them last spring.

“Right now I’m just helping out with programs doing basic stuff,” Roake said.

Attendees of the lighting circle around Santa Claus.

Attendees of the lighting circle around Santa Claus.

However, it was not the town Christmas tree or the festooned streetlights that lit up downtown Main Street; it was the glow on the children’s faces that shined upon the excitement of seeing Santa Claus, some for the first time. As the children swarmed to the man in the red suit, you could hear screams of excitement and urgency to see their favorite toy giver.

“I can’t see him!” one boy cried out, as others urged their parents to get them a better view.

Their excitement dwindled upon sitting on Santa’s lap to ensure he saw their good behavior.

Surprising enough, the only people happier than the kids were their parents.

“Everybody is just really gracious and generous, we love the cider donuts and the sand filling snowman. Just another thing we love about Durham. I’m a UNH grad but you don’t appreciate this kind of stuff until you get a few youngins,” UNH alumni Ben Alexander said. Alexander attended the event with his two sons, Rowen and Max.

Executive Editor