At about 7:10 p.m., Mayor Sam Henderson and members of Gulfport City Council called for children from the crowd to help them light the city’s live tree for the season. Together, they overcame one technical glitch with the on switch and successfully illuminated the centerpiece for the gathering.
Children who attend educational classes at the city’s Recreation Center also performed choreographed songs while Henderson, his wife Laura and former Gulfport Mayor Yvonne Johnson led group sing-a-longs featuring “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
Throughout the evening, members of the Gulfport Teen Council served refreshments.
On cue, elves from the Gulfport Fire Department brought Santa to town so he could take his place on a custom red-and-white throne where children took turns sharing their holiday wishes. Teen Council members handed out candy canes and small gifts as keepsakes for the experience.
“It’s such a great tradition,” said Vice Mayor Christine Brown. “We’ve been coming for 30 years. It brings everybody together from all walks of life.”