Mayor’s Message — Here come the holidays

Mayor Louis Manzo looks ahead to the holidays in Harrison Township

Clearly the transition to autumn this year has been camouflaged by the mild weather with the temperature gauge still topping 70 degrees in the last week. But, it is November and we are entering the gateway to the holiday season, even though it may not feel like it. With Thanksgiving only two weeks away, preparation for the annual fall feast will commence, even if we’re wearing shorts. That four-day stretch begins with the Wednesday night before Turkey Day when everyone starts heading home. The kids get a break from college and out-of-town family members migrate home for the holiday weekend. The local establishments are usually crowded and the atmosphere is festive. It’s a time to catch up with old friends or classmates and to relish in what is most important to all of us — family.

This annual occurrence was the backdrop to an important decision we made in town several years ago. Harrison already had a long-standing tradition of staging a tree-lighting event on the first Saturday in December. The Historical Society would host the event at Old Town Hall, which included reading the kids a Christmas story on the porch, sharing some cookies and refreshments inside and, if we were lucky, the children got a special visit from Santa. Obviously, we did a 10, nine, eight, seven countdown…to light the small cut Christmas tree we brought in each year, since lighting the large live tree on site had become too costly and a logistics problem. But, the event was still special because it focused on the kids and felt a bit like a Norman Rockwell painting setting. Our mindset was to spread that spirit throughout the community beyond the 100 or so residents that normally attended each year.

That was the advent of “Lights on Main.” Private donations addressed replacing and stringing the lights on the 65-foot tree again and by 2013 we were ready to launch this enhanced tree-lighting event. We moved the date to the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend to tap into that homecoming vibe that already exists, we shut down Main Streer and we enlisted dozens of resident volunteers to make it happen.

The rest is history. “Lights on Main” attracts more than 5,000 people each year, including some who come from elsewhere to share in our holiday festival. Each year we tweak a few things to make the night even better and our township staff and event volunteers work hard on what is known as the “Best Event in Gloucester County.”

Mark your calendars this year for Saturday, Nov. 25. The street will come alive at 5:30 p.m. and the lighting countdown starts at 7 p.m. Bring the whole family, since there is truly something for everyone. Don’t be fooled by the weather, Christmas IS coming, and in Mullica Hill, we welcome the season better than any place else!