By Casey Peacock
A medley of Christmas carols filled Portales city council chambers as members of the community gathered for the annual lighting of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree that took place Tuesday night.
“It’s a great event, tonight is the kickoff for the holiday season for the community,” said Mayor Orlando Ortega. “It gives us an opportunity to begin our celebration.”
High winds forced the program to be moved from the courthouse lawn to city hall chambers, said event coordinator Terra Foster.
“I think it (the program) was the best it could have gone, we had to work with the weather,” said Foster.
Lights flashing and siren blaring, Santa Claus arrived in style on a fire truck to greet the children and adults gathered. As children flocked around Santa Claus, he made his way inside the chamber to address the crowd.
“I’ve been helping out with this program for a very long time,” said Santa Claus. “It’s a very worthwhile program and I’m very proud of Portales for helping out.”
The festive atmosphere continued as the crowd and choirs sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells, with enthusiasm.
Spilling into the lobby, community members mingled, enjoying refreshments and visiting, as many chose names of children to purchase gifts for.
The main purpose of the evening’s program was for community members to select a child’s name from the Mayor’s Christmas Tree, said Ortega. Names of children who are in need are placed on the tree. People can pick out a name and buy a gift for that particular child. The items that are being requested for the children are an item of clothing and a toy, said Ortega.
“We encourage citizens in the community to stop by and pick up a name,” said Ortega.
According to Foster, approximately 150 names of children had been submitted to be hung on the tree. Starting in October, Foster and other community members have been busy collecting the information needed for the program.
As the program wound down, Foster felt that most of the names had been picked up by community members. Names that were not picked up at the program will be hung on the tree and will be available for community members to stop by and pick up at city hall, said Foster.
Gifts should be returned to city hall no later than 4 p.m. Dec. 1, said Ortega. After that, they will be organized and routes for delivery by Santa Claus will be mapped out. Delivery will take place on Dec. 14, said Ortega.
“It’s the community’s tree,” said Ortega. “It’s one of an ongoing celebration.”