DRYDEN — It was the way a village grew up.
A tradition lost for a year as a pandemic forced neighbors to avoid each other. On Saturday, it returned to Dryden, resuming the neighborhood relationships under the guidance of a right jolly old elf.
Saturday in Dryden began early with a scavenger hunt, a craft fair and an ornament-making session. Santa Claus arrived about 1 p.m. at the Southworth Library near the village center to read some of his favorite stories.
New this year was a village s’mores making area near the hay bale snowmen erected on the Village Green.
“We try to do something different every year,” said Marty Conger, the town of Dryden recreation director. “So this is our first day doing this.”
“We had to come out and try this,” said Suzanne Scheuring of Dryden. She had brought her first-grade son, Caleb Scheuring, to the festivities and their 6-month-old puppy. “We haven’t had a chance to see our neighbors in a long time. And it’s super nice that it’s outdoors.”
Caleb, 7, gobbled his s’more. “We definitely have to have some more,” he said.
Shelly and Steven Pollock, who split their time between Dryden and Allentown, Pennsylvania, made sure to be in Dryden.
“We lost a whole year,” Shelly Pollock said — community events lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is how we grew up,” Steven Pollock said. “We lost that along the way most places.”
Dryden high school students smiled as they sang carols and played their trombones, French horns, flutes, saxophones and jingle bells before Santa Claus arrived. Some students pulled double duty on the steps of the United Methodist Church, as they sang with a choir and played, or held their cell phone flashlights up as candles. A crowd sang along.
A large fire truck, with flashing lights and sirens, arrived with Santa Claus perched on top.
“I had an easy sleigh ride in, didn’t I?” he said. “Who else gets a ride like that around here?”
He made his way to the evergreen between the Methodist and Presbyterian churches and asked everyone to count down from five before the lights sparkled to life.
Adam and Carol Holick brought their 13-month daughter, Charlotte, to the tree lighting.
“This is her first tree-lighting ceremony,” Adam Holick said.
Adam Holick said he never got to experience the community spirit village events can spark as he grew up in a rural area outside of Binghamton with houses miles apart and no village center.
“I really like the small-town environment because of community events like this,” Holick said. “This is something I would have loved to attend as a kid and I get to take my kid to.”