SOMERVILLE, NJ - More than 5,000 visitors jammed downtown Somerville Saturday night to await Santa's arrival and the official tree lighting, which kicked off the borough's annual Holiday Jubilee.
The crowd began to mingle around the tree erected on Division Street several hours prior to Santa and sang popular Christmas carols while awaiting his arrival.
Santa arrived in a convoy of Somerville fire trucks on Main Street, and was escorted through the packed crowd by Somerville police.
After an official welcome from Mayor Brian Gallagher - who reminded the crowd that Santa makes his first stop in Somerville every year - Santa took the microphone to tell the children in the crowd that they always are high on his holiday list.
Joined by members of the Borough Council on the raised platform in front of the tree, the mayor and Santa lit up the tree,.
With that, families and couples began to slowly disperse to shops on Division Street and Main Street.
Hundreds waited in line for horse-drawn wagon rides up and down Main Street, while others made their way to the United Reform Church, to await Santa once again to pose for pictures. Inside the church, a bell choir played Christmas carols.
Parking was at a premium, with some visitors driving through the borough parking lots several times in search of an open space for upwards of 40 minutes.
Retail stores did a brisk business, with long waits for tables at most of the borough's restaurants; a family of 8 was told there would be a 90-minute wait for a table at Alfonso's Trattoria and Restaurant at 6:30 p.m.