BRISTOL BOROUGH >> Hundreds jammed Mill Street on Friday night, Nov. 29 for the town’s official Christmas tree lighting.
And they were lining the streets again on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 30 for the annual Bristol Borough Christmas Parade.
Santa received a huge Borough welcome as the it kicked off the holiday season with carols, speeches, floats, bands and plenty of spirit.
“Who needs Times Square on New Year’s Eve when you have the Bristol Borough tree lighting the day after Thanksgiving,” said Raising the Bar’s Bill Pezza, who emceed the tree lighting event organized by the Bristol Borough Council.
He welcomed everyone “to the best tree lighting in Bucks County - in the best small town in America.”
Joining him on stage in front of the unlit Christmas tree were U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, State Senator Robert Tomlinson, State Rep. John Galloway, Mayor Joseph Saxton, Council President Ralph DiGuiseppi, council members Greg Pezza, Lorraine Cullen and Lou Quattrocchi and Steve Mooney, the president of the Bristol Borough Business Association.
After welcoming the crowd, DiGuiseppi took a moment to remember Ginny Burton, a longtime fire police officer who was always a familiar face at community events like the tree lighting.
Mooney encouraged everyone to support their local small town businesses this holiday season. “Small business is the heartbeat of America. And Mill Street is the heartbeat of the borough,” he said.
State Rep. Galloway, who has been coming to the tree lighting for years, said each year the event gets bigger and better. “With Mill Street and Radcliffe Street all lit up, the entire town is looking fantastic and ready for the holidays,” he said. “I’d like to thank all of you for supporting all the businesses and restaurants and for continuing to make this town the best town in America.”
Calling the tree lighting one of the highlights of the season, State Sen. Tomlinson wished everyone a wonderful holiday season.
And just off the plane from Puerto Rico, where he spent Thanksgiving getting updates on the hurricane recovery work there, Congressman Fitzpatrick congratulated Bristol for having the best holiday tree lighting in the county.
“We all know the reason. It’s not about economics or anything else. It’s about a feeling. It’s about community,” he said before challenging the kids to a race down Mill Street to see Santa.
As members of the Bristol Community Baptist Church Choir entertained with joyful music, the attention turned to this year’s tree, which will stand tall and proud at the intersection of Radcliffe and Mill streets throughout the holiday season.
The large pine was donated by Donna and Bob Snyder in memory of their son, Robbie, who passed away at the age of 47 in 2017.
“It very emotional, especially because we lost our boy,” said Donna Snyder, who was joined by her former husband, Bob, their son, Daniel, and other family members for the tree lighting. “This was planted when the boys were little. And who would have thought this would happen today?”
Gazing up at the large pine, Snyder said it’s hard to believe the tree was just three feet tall when they planted it in 1972 at their family home in the Pinewood section of Levittown.
Over the years, the tree grew and so did the Snyder family. But Donna said Bob was worried the tree was going to fall so they made the decision to donate it to Bristol Borough for its official tree.
“It’s beautiful,” said Donna, of the family tree, now decorated with ornaments and lights. “It looks beautiful.”
Jim’s Tree Service donated its services to the borough, including cutting down the tree, transporting it to the borough and setting it up at Mill and Radcliffe streets. George Waldron and the town’s public works department also helped with Michael Gorman organizing the decorations.
“And if you turn around and look behind you, Mill Street has never been brighter, never been more vibrant and that’s because of the work that William Penn Bank did in lighting up the street,” Pezza told the crowd.
An electrical issue delayed the tree lighting for a few minutes, giving Carol Mignoni a chance to warm up the crowd with a few favorite carols.
As kids chanted “light the tree, light the tree,” Council President DiGuiseppi soon appeared on stage introducing Borough Manager Jim Dillon and his family to do the honors.
A hush fell across the gathering as the tree came alive in sparkling white lights, bathing the street in holiday spirit and eliciting a chorus of oohs and aahs.
It was then time for the arrival of the guest of honor - Santa Claus - who made his way through the crowd on the River Runner accompanied by the Bristol Borough High School Cheerleaders.
After greeting everyone from the stage and leading a chorus of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” Santa made his way to the Centre for Arts where he listened to holiday wishes and posed for photos inside a room beautifully decorated by Karla Sloan and the Bristol Antique Market.
The holiday celebration continued on Saturday with the annual Christmas Parade, which marched from the Harriman section to Mill Street.
Leading off the parade were the borough’s first responders, including fire apparatus from the town’s fire companies - Bristol 51, Goodwill, American Hook and Ladder and Bristol Consolidated. Also joining the parade were the Bucks County Rescue Squad and fire companies from Edgely, Croydon, Newportville, Tullytown, Edington, Forest Lake, Springtown and Bordentown, NJ.
The parade continued with the Delaware Valley Vietnam Veterans, the Bristol Borough Animal Control Officer and the Aqua String Band sponsored by the Bristol Borough Council.
As kids scrambled for candy, the Bracken Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps filled Pond Street with holiday favorites.
Joining the march were national, state, county and local officials who waved to the crowds and shook hands along the way. Among them were Bucks County Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, State Senator Robert Tomlinson, Bucks County Commissioner-elect Bob Harvie and Bristol Borough Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe.
Adding a spring to their step were members of the Stepping Stone Dance Studio.
Miss Bucks County waved to everyone and so did Boomer from the Trenton Thunder.
Calvary Baptist Church reminded everyone of the meaning of the season with a giant manger scene with a banner proclaiming “A Savior is Born.”
The Vanzant Dance Academy danced its way through town presented by Bristol Fuel.
Wreaths Across America promoted the annual holiday placement of wreaths at the national cemetery at Washington Crossing.
Also joining the parade was the Anchor Yacht Club, numerous antique cars, the Bristol Township Twirlers and Donna Deluca (the AOC’s Teacher of the Year).
The Dancing Divas presented quite a show in the middle of Pond Street and cheers erupted along the street fir the Bristol High School Football team, fresh off its Thanksgiving Day won over Morrisville.
Elsa from the Disney movie “Frozen” had all the kids jumping up and down with excitement.
The Shriners marched and rode by with its Shriners' train and tribute to Washington Crossing the Delaware River.
Cheers and applause greeted the Bristol Wildcats Youth Football and the Puerto Rican Cultural Association of Bucks County.
And St. Mark School shared this simple message: “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is by singing loud for the Lord to hear.”
The parade concluded with the Truman High School Marching Tigers escorting the guest of honor, Santa Claus, through town. Santa arrived in an old-fashioned horse and carriage.