Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony Kicks Off Berlin’s Holiday Season

Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony Kicks Off Berlin’s Holiday Season
Hundreds of people as well as Santa Claus are pictured in Berlin after the town tree was illuminated for the first time last Friday night. Photo by Jen Garten

BERLIN — Berlin residents and visitors gathered outside of the Atlantic Hotel last Friday to celebrate the official start of the holiday season at the annual Berlin tree lighting ceremony and holiday arts night.

This year’s bash had a little something for all ages and interests, including late-night shopping, a gallery crawl featuring local and regional artists, horse-drawn carriage rides with Santa and live ice sculpting sponsored by Ocean Downs Casino.

Despite the chilly weather, families from far and near congregated along historic Main Street with Ocean 98 radio personality Al Reno offering classic holiday music before the tree lighting. Mayor Gee Williams, donning a top hat and festive scarf, led the crowd in a heart-warming rendition of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” once the tree was lit, signifying the ceremonial beginning of the town’s holiday celebration.

The cold wasn’t lost on Williams, who joked with the crowd about how the temperature drop was helping Berlin keep its “Coolest Small Town” claim to fame.

“[This was] probably the coldest tree lighting we’ve ever had,” said Williams, “but that didn’t stop anyone from coming out.”

Ocean Downs Casino sponsored local ice sculptor Erik Cantine to work this year’s event once again. Cantine, who has competed in ice sculpting competitions around the world, said this was his fifth year of involvement in the tree-lighting festivities. When asked what keeps him coming back, he cited his love of the craft.

“I do it because I love to do it. I love to see the look on everyone’s faces,” he said.

This year’s piece was a five-block, 1,500-pound sculpture of the Grinch.

Kids and their families gathered around to play an icy game of bean-bag toss or to look on as Cantine shaved down the blocks of ice with saws and chisels – all the while playing with chips that would inevitably fly into the street.

Local artists and musicians were spotlighted at various locations during the event. Patrick Henry, Liz Lind and other notable names from the local and regional art scene were on display in the Globe, Bruder Hill, and The Art Studios at the Visitors Center, while local musicians like Kevin Compher and Dark Gold Jazz crooned for patrons enjoying dinner and drinks at various businesses.

Most shops were open until around nine, and each was packed with customers enjoying different fares and discounts. Shelly Bruder, the owner of Bruder Hill and Bruder Home, said that the event “definitely helps” keep the sales rolling in on some of the busiest shopping days of the year.

“The Christmas tree lighting brings everybody down,” said Bruder.

Ultimately, traditional holiday festivities are what keep people coming back, or even joining along for the first time. The street outside of the Atlantic Hotel was packed with families taking pictures in front of the tree, enjoying drinks together in the cold, and watching kids take carriage rides with Santa.

Don Murphy of Catonsville, a first-time attendee of this event, was there with his family and enjoying the spirit of things.

“It’s cute,” said Murphy. “It’s adorable.”