Utica to host Christmas tree-lighting celebration

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published November 23, 2021

 Utica lights up its Christmas tree in 2019 during its tree lighting festivities.

Utica lights up its Christmas tree in 2019 during its tree lighting festivities.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

UTICA — The city of Utica will be hosting a Christmas tree lighting celebration after taking a break last year due to the pandemic.

The annual Christmas tree lighting will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 11 at Utica’s Memorial Park, which is near the Utica Public Library, 7530 Auburn Road.    

Gus Calandrino, the mayor of the city of Utica, said the city had to cancel the event last year. It had been a popular event.

“We had to cancel the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony last year due to COVID-19 and crowd limitations. In 2019, we had over 2,000 people. We think this year will be even bigger and better,” he said in an email interview.

There will also be a few visitors.

“We’re excited to have Fox 2 News anchor Roop Raj as the Master of Ceremonies. Detroit Red Wing legend Darren McCarty is also going to be in attendance and available for autographs,” he said.

McCarty is a four-time Stanley Cup winner who scored a career best 19 goals and 30 assists as the Detroit Red Wings swept the Philadelphia Flyers for their first Stanley Cup in 42 years in 1997. McCarty scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in Game 4.

Santa, Mrs. Claus and one of Santa’s top elves are going to be presented with the key to the city. Santa will be visiting with kids so that he can hear what they want for Christmas.

“We will have a large-scale Fireworks Spectacular. The Utica High School Marching Band will also be performing Christmas favorites for everyone’s enjoyment. The Utica Fire Department is sponsoring ‘Stuff an Ambulance.’ They are asking everyone to bring new, unwrapped toys. All donations will benefit the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program,” he said.

Katherine Francis, the interim director of the Utica Public Library, said the library is excited to be involved with the tree-lighting and the Utica Fire Department’s Stuff an Ambulance event.

“This year is exciting to be back offering family-fun activities that bring the community together during such a magical time of year,” she said in an email interview.

A contest to guess the number of goodies in a jar was held at the Utica Public Library for a Utica child to win the chance to kick off the fireworks show by pushing the plunger on the Christmas fireworks detonator.

“The closest guess without going over will win the jar and be the ‘Firework Technician’ at the Christmas Tree lighting ceremony,” Francis said prior to the contest’s end Nov. 20, which occurred after press time.

During the tree lighting festivities, the library will be having a bake sale fundraiser from 2 to 9 p.m.

“We were not able to do a Bake Sale last year due to COVID, and because it is (a) favorite of the residents who have enjoyed it year after year, this is the best time to bring it back.

The library will have many different types of holiday treats, including treats that are with or without nuts, are gluten free and are vegan friendly.    

“Also, we are having a Christmas Story Time at 6 p.m. for children to enjoy a few Christmas books, including ‘The Night Before Christmas,’ followed by a fun holiday craft. The bake sale and the Christmas Story Time will be on the main floor of the library,” she said.

The library is also accepting presents for Toys for Tots for the Stuff an Ambulance event that the Utica Fire Department is sponsoring. All toys collected will go to Toys for Tots, which distributes the toys to less fortunate children at Christmastime. Attendees are asked to bring a new and unwrapped toy to fill up the ambulance and meet McCarty.

Toys for Tots donation boxes are also located at Utica City Hall, 7550 Auburn Road, and the library.

For more information on the event, visit www.cityofutica.org.