Mayor Fitzwater hosts 18th annual tree lighting

Ken Barnes/News Tribune
Mayor Ron Fitzwater and his granddaughters moves the switch to light the Mayor's Christmas Tree on a rainy Thursday night at Rotary Centennial Park.
Ken Barnes/News Tribune Mayor Ron Fitzwater and his granddaughters moves the switch to light the Mayor's Christmas Tree on a rainy Thursday night at Rotary Centennial Park.

The mayor's granddaughters assisted him with an important task Thursday night.

"Christmas has always been a really big family holiday for us," Mayor Ron Fitzwater said.

After Fitzwater and his helpers pulled a candy cane contraption, the Christmas tree at the corner of Bolivar and West Water streets was officially prepared for the holiday season and the crowd cheered.

During Jefferson City's 18th annual Christmas tree lighting, a light rain fell. This didn't stop the Jefferson City Community Band, the Capital City High School Band and the Helias Catholic High School Choir, all of which performed Christmas music.

"A little rain, but could always be worse. Could have been snow," Fitzwater said.

Fitzwater thanked the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department for hosting the event and the band and choir members for providing entertainment.

"It's a long tradition. It's a privilege. I've been to this event many times and it's kind of fun being on this side," Fitzwater said.

After the tree was lit, several groups of families and friends posed in front of it for pictures, as well as with Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Eileen and Barney Combs.

Barney Combs is on the board of directors for Missouri River Relief, a nonprofit organization seeking to educate communities about the longest river in the United States. He and his wife, Eileen, have been volunteering as the Clauses since 2019, when the two moved to Jefferson City. Barney Combs said his favorite part is seeing the children's faces when they see Santa.

"Sometimes they're so excited they're crying, I just love it," he said.

Barney and Eileen Combs will don their suits again tonight for the downtown living windows event that begins at 5:45 p.m.

The mayor's tree is a 20-foot-tall eastern red cedar tree from Binder Park, according to city clerk Emily Donaldson, and its is adorned with decorations attached with cable ties and provided by the four local rotary clubs.

The rotary clubs also provided free cookies and hot chocolate for the hundreds of people who flocked to the end of Bolivar Street for the event.

The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department staff assisted earlier this week with decorating the tree and accepted non-perishable food items or unwrappped toys as donations Thursday evening for the Salvation Army.

  photo  Ken Barnes/News Tribune People take pictures by the Mayor's Christmas Tree on Thursday night in Rotary Centennial Park.
 
 
  photo  Ken Barnes/News Tribune The Helias Catholic High School choir braves the rain to perform at the Mayor's Christmas Tree lighting ceremony Thursday night at Rotary Centennial Park.
 
 
  photo  Ken Barnes/News Tribune The Capital City High School band performs at the Mayor's Christmas Tree lighting ceremony Thursday night at Rotary Centennial Park.
 
 
  photo  Ken Barnes/News Tribune The Mayor's Christmas Tree and surrounding decorations light up Rotary Centennial Park following the lighting ceremony Thursday night.