Hundreds of residents gathered both in and outside the community center Wednesday night for Rocky Hill's formal welcome to the holiday season.
The annual event, called Winter Wonderland, is "a tradition that started a long time ago," said Town Councillor Larrye deBear. "It's mainly for the children, but, hopefully, adults join in the mood too."
Throughout the 90 minute mini-festival, kids and their parents alternated between activities in the frigid outdoors and others happening within the homey insides of the community center.
Outside, they could watch the official lighting of the town Christmas tree by "Santa Claus", listen to carolers from the Rocky Hill High School Chamber Choir, ride in a horse-drawn carriage, see a sculpture of a sleigh carved from a block of ice, be photographed frolicking in a snow globe-replica "bounce house", and have more pictures taken with Santa.
Third-grader Brian Gagnon affirmed that his purpose in coming to Winter Wonderland was simply "to see Santa." Asked why he wanted to visit Jolly St. Nick, the boy exclaimed, "Because I haven't seen him since last year!"
Like his boss, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" was on hand to take pictures with kids too, but he was smart enough to do most of his posing in the cozy confines of the community center.
After the tree-lighting ceremony, the Chamber Choir followed Rudolph's lead and also retreated to the center's toasty interior. Director Kim Quinn explained that her group's carols are a staple of the yearly celebration.
"It's an annual thing we do for Winter Wonderland," she stated proudly.
Aside from posing with Rudolph and being treated to more Christmas carols, families could relax inside with free beverages, such as hot apple cider or cocoa, as they watched a Muppets Christmas special on a big-screen TV and socialized. Two rooms were additionally set up for children to color and make arts-and-crafts projects.
Some kids opted for all-season forms of recreation, playing basketball and other games in the community center gym. Others did likewise, but outdoors, braving the icy night air with vigorous use of swings and other playground equipment.
However they chose to participate in the the festivities, deBear hopes that community members of all ages embraced Winter Wonderland's intended spirit.
"It really kicks off the season here, and, hopefully, it sets a tone of 'peace on earth, good will toward men.'"