Story & Photos by Mekenna Malan
HYDE PARK — The 4th annual Hyde Park tree lighting ceremony attracted families from throughout Cache Valley on Monday, offering cookies, Christmas carols, hot chocolate and tidings of joy.
Hundreds of citizens gathered around a small pine tree planted outside the city office building as Mayor Bryan Cox led the crowd in choruses of “Jingle Bells”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The decorated tree was lit, and Santa Claus himself made his entrance on a fire truck when the crowd sang the last song, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
After generations of living in Hyde Park, Laurel and David Hancey began the Christmas tradition four years ago as homage to the ancestors who came before them, and as a family-friendly way to ring in the holiday season.
“My great grandad was one of the first settlers of Hyde Park,” David Hancey said. “We started thinking of ways to give back to the community and celebrate Christmas as a family. We bought the tree and planted it four years ago, and it grows bigger and brighter every year.”
The festivities have also grown each year with drinks, sweets, music and a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.
“Our family decorates the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving to prepare for the lighting, and we provide the cookies,” said Laurel Hancey. “It’s our gift to the city.”
An ugly sweater contest was added to the list of activities this year. Headed by the Hyde Park Youth Council, the contest gets even more people involved in the ceremony.
“We really wanted to do a sweater contest for the month of December,” said Rylee Fullmer, Hyde Park’s youth mayor. “Because it’s a small activity, we decided it would be a good idea to combine it with the tree lighting. We bought prizes to give out, like candy bars and Santa hats and other Christmas things.”
There were several winners of the sweater contest, decided by applause from the audience. Cox’s Christmas sweater won him the final prize, a reindeer headband inside a red stocking.
“This just keeps getting bigger every year,” he said. “We are so grateful for the Hancey family and this contribution to the city.”