– RIVERVIEW REGISTER
The annual Riverview Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Riverview continues to delight those in the community. The more it grows, the more it seems to glow.
In fact, the annual tree lighting and afterglow on Nov. 23 at Young Patriots Park was the biggest and best attended in city history.
Besides the lighting of the Christmas tree under the pavilion and lights throughout the park, there were opportunities to visit with Santa, a chance to check out live reindeer, music by the Riverview Community High School band and chorus and Seitz Middle School band, hayrides, toy train rides, fire pits, children’s games and crafts and more.
When the outdoor activities were complete, the band Backdraft performed “Trans Siberian Orchestra-style” music in a giant tent.
Other than the beverages during the afterglow, all the festivities were presented free of charge.
Mayor Andrew Swift, who heard crowd estimates as high as 3,000, predicted the event would continue to grow next year. City staff is working on sponsorship for winter fireworks in 2020 and Swift plans to add shuttle buses to help with transportation similar to the city’s summer festival. He said suggestions will be accepted during meetings of the Recreation and Beautification commissions.
“The way I look at it, this is the beginning of the holiday season,” Swift said. “It’s important to let our people in the community know that we want to celebrate with them.”
In a Facebook post, the Mayor thanked everyone who came out on a chilly but clear night. In fact, nine members of the Swift family were among those enjoying the fun.
The one-day holiday festival has grown steadily. Swift said the Christmas tree lighting was moved from the front of City Hall a year ago after Riverview residents Miko and Mike Ceaser donated the pavilion in Young Patriots Park. Overall attendance more than tripled this year.
Activities were held in the community center, library and around the park – “and in the football field-size tent,” Swift said.
“It’s a very family friendly event,” said Riverview resident Jennifer Campbell, who was accompanied by husband Anthony and children Isaac and Bianca. “The kids love it.”
Resident and school teacher Anne Popyk agreed.
“There was a lot for kids to do,” said Popyk, who was joined by husband Marvin and sons Ben and Tyler. “It turned out great. The tent was a great addition.”
Gary Pounders, whose 10-year-old son Gavin was one of the members of Cub Scout Pack 1659 to volunteer their services, said he loved the event.
“There are so many opportunities and activities for kids to experience,” said Pounders, who works for All Point Construction, a home remodeling company. “It really brings the community together.”
Seitz band director Jessica Bouchard confirmed that the tree lighting ceremony has gotten “better and better.”
High school social studies teacher Michon Lince, whose son Rhye plays tuba in the high school band, said the entertainment and heated tent made a difference.
“I grew up in Riverview and I chose to live in Riverview because it’s so charming,” Lince said. “It’s such a welcoming community.”
Mayor Swift praised the “monumental effort” by the Department of Public Works, who started months ago decorating the park and several city buildings.
He called the Recreation Department employees “the backbone” of the event, adding, “I believe they outdid themselves this year.”
“Everything appeared to have run rather smoothly and on time,” Swift said. “There was only one problem that I was aware of. Just before the Christmas tree was lit, the police had to close down the entrance to the park. Our parking went way beyond capacity. A large number of people had to park at Concessi’s or in the neighborhoods surrounding the park.”
A shuttle bus should elevate any parking issues going forward, he said.
Swift also thanked members of Cub Scout Pack 1659, the Beautification Commission, American Legion and the Kiwanis Club for their participation, along with Russ Brown, who donned his suit to serve as Santa Claus.
The Mayor also thanked dignitaries who were present throughout the event, including several members of the City Council and Board of Education, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell – it was the Congresswoman’s birthday – and Riverview resident Ron Hinrichs, who is president of the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“We were all very pleased,” the Mayor added.