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Annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting in Lancaster draws thousands to Penn Square for caroling, Tuba Christmas, and a visit from Santa Claus

LANCASTER, Pa. -- Tonight marked the official start of the holiday season in downtown Lancaster. Thousands took in the Mayor's Tree Lighting and 'Tuba Christmas' - some people's favorite tradition in the city.

Except the tree didn't light up the first time.

Mayor Rick Gray counted the audience down from three, spectators laugh as one hits, and the tree remains black.

“I knew we should’ve payed the electric bill," he said.

Second try, the tree is sparkling, and the crowd erupts.

The Annual Mayor's Christmas Tree Lighting marks the start of the holiday season in Lancaster.

One family from Lancaster Township takes it very seriously.

“We’re staking our spot for the annual tree lighting. We’ve been here since about a quarter to five, and we each take shifts so when one of us goes to the bathrooms - we each take our turns," said

Once the festivities start, it’s hard to move, and it is pretty clear, everyone wants the best spot to see 'Jolly 'Ol Saint Nick.

This year? He soars high above the square on a fire engine.

for some, the night’s about enjoying time with family and neighbors.

“I think just a lot of fellowship… a lot of people down here enjoying each other and enjoying the evening. I have my whole family down here. Everybody a little scattered right now, but we’ll all be together in a bit," said doyle garriott, who moved to lancaster a year ago.

For others, a bittersweet goodbye - Mayor Rick Gray started the tradition, and it’s his final tree lighting, retiring after 12 years in office.

The night wouldn’t be complete without Tuba Christmas.

Spectators say the attendance was even higher this year, because the weather outside was not frightful.

“It’s awesome. Perfect weather, perfect weather," said Garriott.

All of the fun paving the way for more holiday events in Lancaster through the start of the new year.

Officials say Lancaster will continue the tradition even after Mayor Gray leaves office because of what it means to the city and how it kick starts the holiday season.