Santa flipped the switch on the season of celebration Saturday following the Holiday Lights Parade and a balmy day of festivities in Berkley.
The jolly old elf, who received a key to the city from Mayor Phil O'Dwyer during a tree-lighting ceremony in the gazebo outside City Hall after the parade, proclaimed the children of Berkley had been better behaved this year than ever.
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The annual Holiday Lights Parade celebration got under way earlier Saturday with trolley rides, a petting zoo and pony rides in advance of the main event.
"I'm having fun. ... Some of these kids have probably never seen a live (farm) animal before" said Jan Bures, who owns Northern Auto Repairs Inc. in Berkley and sponsored the petting zoo and pony rides in the lot next to Clark's Ice Cream & Yogurt.
"Money's tight. Money's no picnic," but it's all about priorities, Bures said of why he chose to sponsor the event for a second year.
Bures' sentiment reflected the spirit of the Holiday Lights Parade, which is entirely funded by donations and put on by the all-volunteer Berkley Holiday Committee with help from the Berkley Junior Women's Club and a legion of volunteers. Carolers outside the Berkley First United Methodist Church also gave their time to create a festive air Saturday before the parade kicked off.
After the procession had made its way down 12 Mile Road to City Hall, children got to sit on Santa's lap and tell him what's on their wish lists and families loaded into horse-drawn carriages for rides throughout the neighborhood.
Turnout was strong, with dry weather and temperatures in the 50s – a treat for the first weekend in December.
"The Holiday Lights Parade begins the holiday season in Berkley," Mayor Phil O'Dwyer said. "The holidays are about family and traditions and religious celebrations. So we start in Berkley with the big man himself – Santa Claus – to set the tone of joy and celebration."
O'Dwyer said the highlight, for him, is the look on children's faces as he hands Santa the key to the city.
"They look up in his eyes with amazement and wonder," he said. "It's magical. That's the reward for all the (volunteers) who work so hard to make this happen."
[Click here to check out photos from last year's parade!]