Story by Kristina Hoti
A thankful community gathered and a full moon shone on Fri., Nov. 23 at the Old School Baptist Meeting House for the lighting of an enormous evergreen tree gracing the top of the hill in Lewis Park in Warwick.
The event, sponsored by the Warwick Volunteer Fire Department, has taken place for “at least 40 years,” according to Melissa Stevens, Warwick Fire Department President. The stately evergreen’s colorful lights were placed on the tree by the volunteer fire department on Fri., Nov. 9, in preparation for the tree lighting; the task took about four hours to complete.
As the community gathered, members of the Warwick Valley High School Meistersingers stood on the front steps of the Old School Baptist Meeting House and sang a collection of traditional Christmas music, while volunteers from the firehouses passed out complimentary hot chocolate to the crowd. Unwrapped toys, destined for donations to Toys for Tots, were collected by the fire department from attendees.
Fire Department Chaplain, Barry O’Neill started the event with an opening prayer, saying, “[the tree] reminds us of all that is beautiful and filled with the gentleness of God.”
He spoke of “how fortunate we are in the Warwick community, and the importance of remembering that to whom much is given, much is expected.”
The chaplain called to mind those who are currently suffering the devastating effects of the forest fires in California, and the sacrifices of the members of the armed forces and their families.
“They are missing time with their families, so that we can enjoy this time with ours,” said O’Neill.
Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard also spoke, addressing first the Warwick Fire Department.
He said, “Thank you for your remarkable courage. It feels like you always have our back. 150 years protecting and caring for us…we are appreciative of that.”
Mayor Newhard thanked the community for coming out to support the event, and reminded everyone gathered that the season ahead is filled with community events, and opportunities to celebrate the season and each other.
“We will have horse and buggy rides, the menorah lighting is in a week and a half, chorales…so come out and enjoy all of it,” said Mayor Newhard.
After the countdown and lighting of the tree, Santa rode down the street on a fire truck as lights flashed, much to the amusement of the children in the crowd, who scrambled quickly to the bottom of the hill for a sweet meet-and-greet. Santa gave every child a moment of attention, and a pack of M&M candy.