NORTH ROYALTON – Santa Claus made a special pre-Christmas stop in the city last week. Jolly ol’ St. Nick arrived in style atop a fire truck as the caboose of the annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony’s Christmas Parade.
He climbed down as children and adults alike cheered.
As he made his way to his seat to listen to girls’ and boys’ requests, he stopped periodically to give out a few hugs.
Addison Struck, 3, of Parma, was lucky enough to receive a quick snuggle from Santa.
“Ah, Santa gave you a hug!” her grandma, Wendy Struck, a longtime North Royalton, said beaming down at her granddaughter.
Dozens and dozens of children were already lined up awaiting their turn to tell Santa their Christmas wish lists in person.
Brothers Luke and William Thresher, 10 and 4, of North Royalton both took a seat on Santa’s lap together. William told Santa his heart’s desire, followed by Luke.
Santa turned to Luke and asked if he has been good this year.
“Yes,” Luke replied confidently.
William wasn’t as confident in his brother’s answer.
“Some days he’s not,” William admitted to Santa.
Everyone had a good laugh, Santa included.
Kids had the usual requests – ultimate dream castle, Spider Man. But there were some high tech wishes too, even from younger kids – iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad, iPod.
“We’ll see what we can do,” Santa said with a chuckle.
The annual Holiday Lighting Ceremony and Parade, hosted Dec. 1, is the official start of the Christmas season in North Royalton.
The parade stepped off at 4:45 p.m. from St. Albert the Great Parish, then made its way down Ridge Road past the City Green. Once it ended, Mayor Bob Stefanik made his way to the gazebo to countdown the lighting of the Christmas trees and City Green decorations.
Big Gus Productions kept the Christmas tunes rolling to spread the holiday cheer while residents helped themselves to free hot chocolate compliments of the Royalton Hills Lions Club and 50 dozen doughnuts donated by Bakers Local 19 and Nickles Bakery in Brook Park.
Debbie Sendrey and her daughter Brittany, 18, have lived in North Royalton for a few years but had never made it to the lighting until this year. They were impressed.
“This is our first time here,” Sendrey said.
“We’ve always said we wanted to come but just never have,” Brittany Sendrey added.
“We actually saw it in The Post,” Debbie Sendrey smiled.
What were they most excited about?
“The parade,” Brittany said excitedly. “I like parades.”
The parade was also a big draw for Kim Trzaska and her family.
“My husband works for the city, my in-laws live in the city and we used to live in the city,” she said. “We have been coming to this for five or six years.”
Tammy Saul and her family are also holiday lighting regulars.
“We come every year. It’s just a great time. My favorite part is watching them see Santa and the parade. Theirs is the hot chocolate and doughnuts,” Saul, a North Royalton resident, said gesturing at her boys.
Terry and Cheryl Ardford used to attend the lighting ceremony regularly too when their twin boys were younger.
“We haven’t come in a while, decided to keep up with tradition and come out. It’s a nice day, kids are smiling,” he said.
“It’s a happier event than the Browns game,” Cheryl Ardford giggled.
City officials were out and about too taking in the jovial, winter atmosphere, including Fire Chief Bob Chegan, Stefanik, Council President Larry Antoskiewicz, Ward 2 Councilman Gary Petrusky, Ward 3 Councilman Dan Langshaw.
A little boy walked up to the fire chief and gave him a high five.
“Do you know who I am?” the little boy asked. “I’m Lucas.”
The chief bent down to chat with him a bit.
Across the green at the gazebo, Langshaw was enjoying the sights and sounds.
“This is my favorite time of year. Probably one of the best kept secrets in North Royalton is the holiday lighting and parade. The weather wasn’t too bad, it’s just a great way to kick off the holiday season,” Langshaw said.
“Every year despite the weather, we always get a good crowd. Kids are lining up to see Santa, and looking at the line, he’ll be here at least an hour. Seeing the kids’ smiles, the community come together in a relaxed atmosphere, it’s just a great event,” Antoskiewicz added.
Stefanik thanked the Holiday Lighting Committee for its hard work in making the event a success.
“Especially Tony Sandora and Camille Price,” he said. “The committee does a great job with this, and that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. We appreciate all they do for the city year after year.”