A record-setting crowd of revellers descended on the Woodstock Square on a mild evening to ring in the holiday season at the annual Lighting of the Square Nov. 24.
About 5,000 people attended the event, according to an estimate from the city of Woodstock. That’s a record number, according to Opera House Managing Director John Scharres.
The Opera House took the lead organizing the Lighting of the Square, which featured Christmas caroling, street vendors, booths for area nonprofits and, of course, thousands of white lights which were illuminated with the flick of a switch following a countdown from the crowd.
Other holiday events coincided with the lighting, including the opening of the Opera House’s Christmas Tree Walk and the Gingerbread House Walk at the Old Courthouse.
The Riley family of McHenry were among those waiting on the steps of the Courthouse to see the display of gingerbread houses — not to mention gingerbread bandstands, gingerbread storefronts and more. It was their first time attending the event, which takes place each year on the day after Thanksgiving.
“We’ve never been to a lighting before,” said Tim Riley, who was accompanied by his wife, Susan, and their daughters, Keelia and Bryenn. “We’ve always planned it and then we missed it.”
Stacy and John Guanci of Richmond said it was their first time attending the lighting, too. They said they might make it an annual tradition.
“It’s the uniqueness of the Square and the atmosphere [we like],” John Guanci said.
Students, residents and members of the Woodstock Community Choir provided the music for the lighting. Miss Woodstock Reilly Wurtz and Little Miss Woodstock Hannah Kaufmann were on hand to help throw the switch and illuminate the Square. The countdown was led by Mayor Brian Sager.
Justice Mull, an 11-year-old from Watertown, Wis., was in Woodstock visiting her family for Thanksgiving.
She and her aunt, Danaya Cruz, Woodstock, were enjoying the unseasonably warm evening while awaiting a visit with Santa Claus, who was posted in his hut on the Square for much of the night. The Rotary Club of Woodstock oversees Santa’s Hut.
“It’s fun, very family-oriented,” Cruz said as her niece prepared to ask the Man in Red for unicorn pajamas.
“It’s amazing,” Justice said of the evening’s festivities.