Clayton business owner Diane Bean calls it the “aah” moment.
It’s that long-anticipated second or two after a day’s worth of holiday decorating. Someone flips the switch, the lights go on, and an ordinary Fraser fir suddenly sparkles.
“I do believe that a Christmas-tree lighting is at the heart of every family,” Bean said.
In Clayton, thousands will experience the “aah” moment when the town lights its 26-foot-tall tree during the 24th annual Christmas Village and Tree Lighting on Dec. 4 on Town Square.
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Bean, who owns a travel agency in Clayton, is helping organize the event, which she said is much more than a traditional lighting ceremony.
For instance, a “Doggie Christmas Costume Contest and Parade” will kick things off at 5:15 p.m. Bean said organizers expect more than 30 dogs to parade down Main Street in holiday costumes.
Starting at 5:30 p.m., attendees can visit other Christmas Village stops like Santa’s Workshop at the community garden across from State Farm. That’s where children can tell Santa what they want for Christmas and have their photos taken with the Jolly Old Elf.
A live nativity scene will play from 5:30 to 8 p.m. on the lawn in front of Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes, and local dance studios and choirs will perform on Horne Square.
Downtown businesses will be open throughout the evening, and Clayton Area Ministries will hold a holiday food drive at two locations – Fayetteville and Main streets and Lombard and Main.
Activities along Main Street end at 8 p.m., and the tree lighting is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. A horse-drawn carriage will take Santa and “Mr. and Mrs. Christmas” to Town Square for the lighting. This year’s Mr. and Mrs. Christmas are former Jones’ Lunch owners Curtis and Alice Jones.
“It’s one of those things that keeps that small-town type of feel,” said Bruce Naegelen, Clayton’s downtown development coordinator.
Naegelen said the town spends about $5,000 each year on the event, which draws about 5,000 people to downtown.
Jessica Lloyd, a Clayton resident and member of the town’s Downtown Development Association, said her family first came to the tree lighting in 2010. She, her husband and their then-18-month-old son watched as Santa came through on the horse-drawn carriage.
“After that, we started venturing to downtown a lot more,” said Lloyd, whose husband is chiropractor Dr. Karel Lloyd.
The family, which had lived just outside the town limits, opened Clayton Chiropractic on Main Street in 2012 and purchased a home downtown a year later, Lloyd said.
“This is very family-oriented, and that’s where I felt like Clayton was so safe and all about keeping that small-town feel,” she said.
On Dec. 4, Main Street will be closed to drivers from Smith Street to O’Neil Street from 5 to 9 p.m. For more information, go to www.downtownclayton.org.