Though it took a few tries, the giant tree in front of City Hall finally lit up on Saturday night after hundreds of people counted down from 10 three times. Feeling the holiday spirit, everyone laughed at the technical difficulties. They clapped and cheered when the lights finally came on a few moments later. "The Holiday Stroll has grown into a wonderful Peabody event," Bettencourt said. "It's an opportunity to kick off the holidays and bring people together from across the city to celebrate family, community, friendship and everything that's great about the holidays." The tree lighting was the last of the day's various holiday activities. The Peabody High School chorale group could hardly be heard over the sound of children everywhere playing, kart-wheeling and chasing each other as they waited for Santa to arrive and Mayor Ted Bettencourt to light the tree. Just before then, six dogs participated in the event's first-ever "Reindog Parade." Pet owners walked their dogs in festive wear from the Peabody Institute Library down to the courthouse to be judged. The winners received prizes, doggie cocoa and treats from Lucky Dog Daycare. Tommy, a mini bernedoodle or a mix between a Bernese mountain dog and a toy poodle, took first place in a Santa costume. Owner Gina Riddle of Peabody walked him across the stage. A Siberian husky named Demi took second place, dressed as a gift and walked by Desiree Ferreras. In third place was Oakley, a French mix with jack russell terrier and pug dressed as a snowman, owned by Nastasia Ferreira. All three dogs and owners live in Peabody. Young families climbed on and off the "Polar Express" trolly, run by conductor and City Councilor Tom Gould, traveling to each holiday event across the city on Saturday. More than 40 children sat cross-legged in the Peabody Institute Library to hear Santa and Mrs. Claus' first reading of "The Night Before Christmas" at 1 p.m. Bettencourt joined the Claus' for another reading at 3:30 p.m. The Stamos and Miller families, both of Peabody, were among the first group. Sophia Stamos told her daughters Aggela, 5, and Maria, 2, to sit up front in Greek. Her husband, Frank, sat nearby. "We came last year," Sophia said. "It was great, they love seeing Santa the most." Later, that day, the Stamos girls and their parents went to watch the tree lighting in front of City Hall, and saw Curious Creatures at the Knights of Columbus. Jennifer Miller and her two boys, Josh, 8, and Jake, 3, have come for the Peabody Holiday Stroll for the last three or four years to see Santa. "I think it’s a time we can all get together, sometimes you met up with friends," Miller said. "It's not too often that they have all these get-togethers, surrounded by kids interested in seeing Santa and I don’t have to go to the mall, which is great." The family of four will spend Christmas in a new home, they are moving to a bigger house in Peabody in a couple of weeks. After hearing Santa read a story, the Millers went across the street to Breaking Grounds Café for hot chocolate. The Peabody Fire Department had a Jaws of Life demonstration, where Peabody firefighter Angel Rivera's wife and children were enjoying the show. Braylon, 7, and his brother Isaac, 4, watched excitedly as firefighters dismantled a car, breaking the windows, popping the tires and prying off a door. Their mother, Sandy Leonard- Rivera, and her mother, Maureen Leonard, were right behind them. "I like how they do the trolley and there are a lot of activities for kids to involve them in it," Leonard- Rivera said of the day's festivities. The two boys wore black plastic firefighter hats that the department was handing out, as well as safety goodie bags. The family may have gone to the tree lighting later if Braylon didn't have a basketball game that afternoon at the YMCA. Lucky, the boys had already had a busy day with various activities. "We went to see the animals at the church and we went in the Fire Department and checked out the smoke room," Braylon said. "And we checked out the trolly," Isaac added. The Leonard-River brothers saw the animals at the Center Church's live nativity scene, with animals from Animal Craze, a traveling petting zoo company. A short production told the story of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. Lamas, donkeys and goats were nearby and children were able to pet them after the presentation. Luz Gonzalez, of Lynn, was volunteering there for the first time. "It's amazing what this church does for the community and for family members. I posted on Facebook that there was no better place to be than right here today," Gonzalez said. Volunteers came the church early, cleaned the yard, held a prayer service, set up the decorations and the nativity scene. "I think it's an awesome, fun opportunity for families to get out with their kids and friends," Katie Mason, director of Christian education and community engagement said. "I like doing the live nativity to share the real meaning of Christmas and it's fun to have the community out."
By Mary Markos salemnews.com