FOREST CITY | Forest City residents gathered downtown on Nov. 27 to meet Santa Claus and see the lights on the outdoor Christmas tree turned on for the first time this holiday season.

"It just makes you feel like Christmas," said Jeanette Neuman, who has been coming to the celebration for years. 

Lots of children and their parents attended the holiday open house at the Forest City Chamber of Commerce to meet Jolly Old St. Nick.

Some of the youngsters were shy, while others happily chatted with Santa. 

"The elf came back," 4-year-old Macey Douglas told him, referring to the Elf on the Shelf tradition where a toy elf pops up at a different location each day in a family's home during the holiday season. 

"His name is Buddy," she told the Summit. 

Macey told Santa she wanted Littlest Pet Shop toys for Christmas. Her brother, Miles, 7, asked St. Nick to bring him football pads.

This is the second year that their parents, Josh and Jacqlyn Douglas, have brought them to see Santa.

"It's just fun for the kids," Jacqlyn said. 

Other children asked Santa for dolls, toy trucks and a guitar. Some of them gave him pictures they drew.

Santa gave each of the children a candy cane. 

He told the children he left his reindeer at nearby Pilot Knob State Park while he visited Forest City. 

Those who attended the open house enjoyed free cookies and hot cider. They also had a chance to enter a drawing for $25 in "Forest City Bucks."

A large crowd, including those who were at the open house, assembled on the courthouse lawn for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

The temperature was still almost 50 degrees when the tree was lit at 5:15 p.m.

"We had beautiful weather this time," Neuman said, noting in the past it has been bitterly cold on the day of the event.

Matt Rittgers, associate pastor at First Baptist Church, gave the invocation before the tree-lighting. He prayed that Forest City may become "a true city on the hill." 

The BrickStreet Theatre troupe sang a song from their upcoming production of the musical "White Christmas." The tree was lit during the performance.

Afterwards everyone present joined in the singing of "Silent Night."

The open house and tree lighting were sponsored by the Forest City Chamber of Commerce, Grow Forest City, and the Forest City Summit.

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