BATAVIA – Santa Claus was no doubt in demand Sunday night in downtown Batavia.
Families began lining up to see Father Christmas at least 45 minutes before Mayor Jeff Schielke officially welcomed him on the Peg Bond Center stage during the city's annual Celebration of Lights Festival.
Per tradition, Santa was in Batavia to help Schielke light the community Christmas tree, the mayor said. Together, Schielke and residents counted down to the big moment.
"Merry Christmas," Schielke said once the tree was aglow.
Hundreds of people attended the mainly outdoor event, which included a community sing-a-long, tractor-pulled wagon rides and visits with Santa.
Benton Pahlka of Batavia stood beside his 10-month-old son, Harlan, while his 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Lilia, and wife, Rebecca, were on the nearby playground.
This was the family's second year at the festival, he said. He said they planned to do the wagon ride and hoped to see Santa.
"The line is already out the door," he said before the event's official start time of 5:30 p.m.
Chris Ciappa of Batavia and his daughters, 10-year-old Samantha and 4-year-old Miranda, also planned to see Santa – if the line wasn't too long, he said.
He brought his daughters to their first Celebration of Lights Festival so they could be more involved in community happenings, he said.
Other families, such as the Carters of Batavia, took turns waiting in line. As her husband stood in line, Katie Carter and daughter Ellie, 5, found the girl's ornament on one of the several trees decorated by various organizations.
Ellie stood by her ornament, which hung on a low branch, as her mother snapped a photo.
The girl said she was excited to see Santa. She hopes he will bring her an American Girl doll and a toy walking dog for Christmas.
Santa greeted children in the Peg Bond Center's warming house, which also hosted the Batavia Fire Department's bake sale fundraiser.
Megan Loebbaka waited in the warmth with her son, 4-year-old Sawyer, and daughter, 6-month-old Charlotte. Her husband, Cale, was a firefighter working the event, she said.
Eating freshly made popcorn, Sawyer said he was excited to see Santa.
Was Kris Kringle the main attraction?
"Yes, he is," Loebbaka said.
The festival was presented by the Batavia Park District in partnership with the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, Batavia MainStreet, the city of Batavia and the Batavia Police Department.