October 22, 2021

New take on tree lighting

Annual Cortland ceremony watched via recording

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

A Cortland Fire Department pickup truck delivers Santa Claus to the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony Friday night in the parking lot of Homer Avenue Plaza. The coronavirus pandemic prompted a change in plans to ensure the safety of those in attendance. The ceremony in past years was held outside City Hall.

In the dark of Friday night, the giant image of Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin wished city residents happy holidays as he counted down to lighting the Christmas tree outside City Hall.

The mayor did not grow greatly overnight. Rather, his video likeness was projected onto a large inflatable screen during the annual tree lighting ceremony.

Due to the pandemic, attendees watched the prerecorded tree lighting in their cars at the Homer Avenue shopping plaza instead of the traditional tree lighting up close at City Hall.

Prior to that, the movie “A Charlie Brown Christmas” played on the screen and popcorn was given out to the roughly 30 people in attendance. After the tree lighting, Santa made his way around the attendees in a City of Cortland Fire Department pickup truck.

Because of social distancing guidelines, Tobin said the city was unable to do the tree lighting normally this year.

“At this point we’re asking people to not do anything or do things safely,” Tobin said in regards to celebrations.

He continued that “a lot of people would rather do things safely.”

Local residents agreed.

“It’s totally new,” said Rusty Weeks. “It kind of sucks we don’t get to see the tree. We’re there pretty much every year but we got to keep up with the times.”

“We’re super happy they found a way to do it,” said Kacey Weeks, Rusty’s wife.

Rusty Weeks said he and his family liked attending the tree lighting as it allows for community members to get together.

“There’s nothing like it,” he said.

“At least we get to see it,” said Kelley Austin.

Austin, who was with her 7-year-old daughter, Jazmine, said the two go to the tree lighting each year.

As the holidays approach, Kelley Austin said her family was the most important thing.

“As long as I have her and my mom and we’re all healthy, we’ll get past this,” she said.