Countdown to Christmas begins with tree lighting

Shelton residents gathered at Veterans Memorial Park on Dec. 2 to celebrate the annual lighting of the Christmas tree. The event was sponsored by Celebrate Shelton, which was started in 2014 by small business owners Michael Skrtic of The Glass Source, Nicole Heriot-Mikula of bringtheHoopla, and Jimmy Tickey.

During the cold night, parents bundled their babies, while small children made tree ornaments, ran around playing, or danced to Christmas music.

Fran Scarpa of Center Stage Theatre sang Christmas songs to the crowd that waited for the tree lighting.

Warm cocoa and cookies were sold by teens from the Boys & Girls Club of the Lower Naugatuck Valley. Shaye Rosco, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, also attended the event.

“I think it’s an incredible community event, and I love when the community can get together and celebrate something,” Rosco said. “Nicole and Mike have done an extraordinary job doing that, and this is the third year in a row, and we’re so happy to be a part of it.”

Shelton residents Aaron Jager and his wife, Diane, brought their 8-month-old son, Zachary and Diane’s parents, Severino and Fatima DeSosa, who are visiting from Portugal, to the event.

Diane said it was the first year she and her family attended the Christmas event at the park. She said it was beautiful, and she was having a good time. Her husband became a little emotional discussing his love of Christmas and commented on the night.

“I think it’s awesome and great that families can come out here and celebrate with children,

because Christmas is a time to come together, and families should be happy,” Jager said. “It’s big for me. I love Christmas — it’s one of my favorite holidays.”

Mayor Mark Lauretti spoke to the crowd about the holiday event and Celebrate Shelton and then proceeded to the countdown to the tree lighting. Children then placed their ornaments on the tree.

The real excitement began when Santa arrived on a fire truck. Santa walked down the park’s pathway to greet the children. The children approached Santa as if he was a rock star, hugging him and applauding his arrival. When he was seated, parents took children over to talk to him and pose for pictures. Heriot-Mikula gave candy canes to the children waiting to talk to Santa while her brother, Jimmy Tickey, greeted parents.

“It was a wonderful turnout, and we had Santa come with the help of our fire department, who came on a fire truck,” Tickey said. “It was just a wonderful evening, with Christmas carols and families here taking photos with Santa.”

Heriot-Mikula commented on why they enjoy planning the event.

“I was born in Shelton, as was Michael Skrtic and Jimmy Tickey, my brother,” Heriot-Mikula said. “We’re so thrilled to give back to the community. We love it. This is what the season is all about. It really is the reason for the season — being together, being with the community, and enjoying time together.”

Skrtic said he, too, was excited about the night because so many people attended the event — around 150 people, he estimated. He said Celebrate Shelton was completing its third year of events, but the Christmas tree lighting held a special place among the planned events.

“All of our events are to give back to the community and build upon that, but this is our true give-back that’s free to the public that we just love putting on every year, and we look forward to it,” Skrtic said.