LOREAUVILLE — According to the U.S. Census, the village of Loreauville has a little more than 900 residents.
If that is a true statement, then just about every resident in the village made at least a quick stop at the intersection of S. Main Street and Railroad Avenue Saturday night for the first Christmas in the Village tree lighting ceremony.
Outside the village hall, Christmas lights traced patterns across the crowd, fanning out from poles on either end of the parking lot. Decorations covered the front of town hall, with Christmas music surfing over the throng of people gathered in the parking lot for the occasion.
Lance Leblanc, dressed in a bright red Christmas pullover, raced up and down a 12-foot aluminum ladder, making final adjustments to the village’s Christmas tree minutes before the official lighting ceremony.
“I guess I am,” he said when asked who was in charge of the tree. “It’s about done.”
The crowd grew quiet for a moment as the voice of Loreauville Mayor Brad Clifton came over the PA.
“Santa is only a few minutes away!” Clifton said. “You’ll have to make some room to let him in.”
Looking over the crowd, it was a toss-up as to whether St. Nick could make it in, unless he was coming by chopper. But moments later, as a tractor pulled an old-fashioned farm buggy around the corner, the sea of people made way for Santa’s arrival. Perched on the front seat next to one of his helpers, the jolly red-clad elf was helped from the wagon and waved to the crowd as he made his way into the village hall.
“Isn’t this a great turnout?” said Roxy Prioux, a member of the Loreauville Community Project, which hosted the event. “It’s amazing.”
Vendors worked to handle a long line of customers buying Christmas ornaments, made for the occasion as a fundraising effort for LCP. Across the street, food trailers made steady business as the crowd sampled their wares or bought drinks for themselves and the children in tow.
A moment later, Santa reappeared with Clifton to count down the lighting of the tree.
“3-2-1… Merry Christmas!” Clifton counted into the microphone, his voice carrying over the crowd as he and his two daughters, with an assist from Santa, hit the switch to light the tree. Applause rose from the gathered throng of people.
Inside the village hall, Santa settled into his chair, prepared for a long night. Prioux, dressed in her LCP Santa’s cap and traditional Christmas elf garb, helped direct traffic as Santa was busily taking notes on Christmas lists and posing for pictures with a long line of children and parents.
“The last three days have been non-stop,” Prioux said as she watched over her two sons, who were helping distribute treats to Santa’s guests after their pictures were taken. “But it has really turned out great!”
Clifton, beaming from ear to ear, was obviously overjoyed as the Loreauville High School Band launched into a series of Christmas carols. The crowd showed no sign of thinning as more people streamed into the crowd, forming a semicircle around the musicians.
“This is beyond what I expected,” the mayor said. “For the first time holding this, it really shows just how strong the sense of community in Loreauville is.”