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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
What is a pivotal game between two AFC powerhouses compared to a free festival of holiday music, fun and activities? And how can the star power of Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Tom Brady and Julian Edelman compare to the star power of Santa, his elves and a giant gingerbread man?
These were the questions many in the crowd were left to ponder when Westwood’s tree lighting came in direct competition with what would ultimately be the New England Patriots’ third loss of the season on Sunday. But while Tom Brady and his crew left the Foxborough crowd disappointed, everyone at the Westwood tree lighting ceremony left pleased.For anyone willing to stand in the line, a professional animal balloon maker was crafting whatever kids wanted, but he was especially proud of his holiday-themed creations. So, while there were many of the traditional balloon animal creations: swords, dogs and hats, for example, most people opted to have him make a wreath, candy cane, or reindeer balloon.
Another crowd pleaser were the sleigh rides (horses not reindeer) that looped around the police station parking lot. There were also people dressed as snowmen, gingerbread men, and two elves that were walking around on stilts. Michael Walsh, who emceed the event, noted that the elves on stilts are a perpetual favorite for the kids, but that because of the chilly weather, “on a day like today, the hot chocolate isn’t a bad idea either.”
In front of the police station, Walsh welcomed the crowd and introduced a group of young dancers who performed a holiday routine. Then, he invited children to come onto the stairs and help him count down until the tree’s lights were lit. But once the lights were on and the crowd had finished clapping, Walsh made sure the audience knew the event was far from over - after all, Santa would be coming soon. “You don’t want to go anywhere” he joked, “unless you’re a dad and you brought two cars.”
Soon, Santa would arrive in a Westwood fire truck (complete with police escort) and take his place on a chair. Anyone who wanted their picture taken with both he and the elves on stilts could do just that.
After the line had diminished in length, Walsh noted that even with the NFL competition and the colder-than-usual weather, the event was still a huge success.
“This is the 32nd year in a row and it’s a fantastic event. It started off a little slow - I think because we were competing with the NFL today - but people came out and had a great time. It’s a lot fun for the kids. They love when Santa pulls up in the fire engine; it doesn’t get any better than that. This is what our town’s all about. The weather was a little warmer last year, but people came despite the weather. The snow adds a little ambience to it, anyway, so overall, it was a great day.”
It may not have been a great day for the Patriots, but it was a great one for the people of Westwood. And while those who stayed home to watch the game were ultimately frustrated with spotty refereeing and a subpar offense, those who came to the tree lighting received free food, balloon animals and a good time.