Story by Naomi Hanson
The November sky above the historic Old School Baptist Meeting House was filled with stars and yuletide music filled the air during the annual lighting of the Warwick Christmas tree. A local tradition, the crowd of revelers came together to appreciate the sounds of holiday music and the feeling of community.
This event, held on Fri. Nov. 29, is part of a long-standing Warwick tradition. The tree lighting, hosted by the Warwick Fire Department, includes hot cocoa, Christmas carols, and fun Christmas characters like the Grinch. The highlight of the evening is when Santa arrived on a fire truck.
The evergreen that stands adjacent to the historic church is lit with multi-colored lights and a bright star on top. These decorations, put up every year by the fire department, were accompanied by the red flashing lights of a fire truck, which paraded down the street to attend the event. The fire department uses this event as a chance to give back, encouraging all attendees to bring an unwrapped gift for Toys for Tots.
Music was provided by the Warwick Valley High School Meistersingers and Treble Choir under the direction of Noreen Hanson. This year the group performed classics such as Hark! the Herald Angels Sing and Joy to the World, Carol of the Bells, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer along with new favorites such as Jingle Bell Rock.
Following the caroling, Town of Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton spoke to the crowd, encouraging everyone to be “thankful for all the blessings we have in this very special place.” Feelings of community were evident in the size of the crowd, which was the largest in many years.
Village of Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard gave a moment of thanks to recognize the important work of the fire department.
“Our town is protected by some of the greatest men and women in our community and that’s our firemen. The dedication of the fire department is clear all year round and especially evident in the success of this event. The past year we have celebrated the 150th anniversary of the fire department and all the protection and goodness and spirit and love they have given our community,” Newhard said.
Children sang and danced to the music, volunteers handed out hot cocoa, and good times were had by all at this time-honored event. Generations of families came out to appreciate the lights, and old locals came back to visit their town for the holidays. Mayor Newhard summed it up well when he said “there is no place like home!”