WESTFIELD, NJ — Before the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, Westfield celebrated its official start of the holiday season early Sunday evening with the town's annual tree lighting ceremony. 

“It’s just a terrific event which brings the community together and makes for fond memories for our children,” Westfield Mayor Andy Skibitsky said.

An estimated crowd of close to 1,000 people of all ages enjoyed holiday music by the Westfield Community Band, danced, sang and clapped their hands in anticipation. Young children sat on their fathers’ shoulders, couples held hands and kids jumped up and down in excitement.

Sign Up for E-News

The crowd cheered when Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived via fire truck.

Donna Genlot has been going to the tree lighting ceremony since moving to the town from Roselle Park in 2003. Genlot was  with two of her three children, Kayla and Brandon, who attend Jefferson School.

"It’s the ambience and the happiness and the crowds, and it kicks off the holiday season,” Genlot said of the ceremony.

Her children, when asked what they thought about the ceremony, answered in unison, “awesome and fun." Brandon finished the thought by saying, “I like watching the sky light up when they turn the lights on on the tree.”

Mayor Skibitsky said that the large evergreen tree is not as healthy as it once was and that the town has had to work on it in recent years to maintain its longevity. The crowd erupted in cheers when the lights were lit.

After the ceremony, children and their parents lined up for pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

A frequent contributor to TAPinto Westfield, Mike Cohen is the founder/director of Throwback Sports (a sports program for children of all abilities) and the sports editor