WESTLAKE, Ohio (WJW) – With the flip of a switch the holidays are here.

Several thousand people gathered at Crocker Park for the annual tree lighting celebration, which also included singing and dance performances through the day.

“We’re here for the tree lighting ceremony, but we wanted to start getting into the feeling for Christmas,” Karen Garmon said. “It’s been a hard year for everybody but if you get out amongst the people.”

“I think we’re most excited to see the Christmas tree and the Christmas lights and the ballet,” Hillary Vaverka said.

Food trucks, costumed characters and sing-along shows to welcome Santa also helped make the event more magical for children and adults. Stark Enterprises Vice President of Marketing Stacie Schmidt said the tree is the centerpiece of the grand celebration.

“It’s 50-feet tall and dances and sings,” Schmidt said. “And we’re starting it off with a block party and opening up Santa’s House and making sure everyone knows when Santa arrives you can go get pictures with him.”

Schmidt said the block party also starts the holiday shopping season, with many are already on the hunt for the perfect gift.

“We’ll be open earlier and open later for everyone to be able to come out, you know, after work, before work, during work, but to shop and dine and eat.” Schmidt said. “But honestly, if so many of our local stores that we’re really excited about, Shop Small, which is coming up on Black Friday.”

Most folks we spoke with say spending time with loved ones is the most important thing this holiday season.

“Family, family, that’s the most important,” Kenneth Morman said. “It’s beautiful, you won’t forget it. Seeing the kids smile every Christmas morning, it’s beautiful. It’s a wonderful feeling you get.”

Santa’s House at Crocker Park will be open from November 18 through December 24 and the ice skating rink will be open November 18 through January 28, 2024.

Other events at Crocker Park this holiday season include:

  • Cleveland Children’s Festival – December 2, at Market Square from 12-3 p.m.
  • Red Cross Blood Drive – December 15, at Market Square from 10-5PM
  • Hometown Vendors Holiday Show – December 16-17, at Market Square from 10-3PM
  • Run Santa Run 5K – December 23, at Market Square starting at 9AM
  • Resolution Run 5K – December 31, at Market Square starting at 9AM

More information can be found here.