NEWARK – Despite the looming rain clouds and scattered rain drops, the courthouse square in downtown Newark was full as friends and family gathered to see the 67th annual lighting of the courthouse and Santa’s arrival.

Festivities kicked off around 6 p.m. A live nativity scene, complete with an angel, three wise men, Joseph, Mary and a Baby Jesus, was put on by Vineyard Church near the courthouse fountain.

Beside the nativity, there were two pens, one with a camel and the other with sheep. Children were lined up to pet and feed the animals.

On stage, master of ceremonies Dave Lehman welcomed the crowd and introduced Doug Moran and the Heisey band. After a few rousing carols, Lehman welcomed Belinda Paisley, Shawna Corder and Hugh Price to sing for the crowd.

Lehman also reminded everyone of Elves in Action, a fundraiser by the Food Pantry Network of Licking County.

“I’m sure everyone ate really well on Thanksgiving, so we need to make sure to give to those in need so no one goes hungry in Licking County,” he said.

Jim Matheny, president of the Newark Rodders Car Club, told the crowd that the 30th “Lite the Nite” car show raised $2,500 for this year’s courthouse lights.

“And over the last 30 years, the Rodders have raised $107,500 total for the courthouse,” he said.

Also in attendance were the Licking County commissioners, each greeting the crowd.

“What better place to be than here in Licking County?” Duane Flowers asked before Newark Mayor Jeff Hall took the stage and wished the audience a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season on behalf of the city employees.

The Blessed Sacrament Combined Chorus, lead by Christina Pultz Miller, performed for the 10th consecutive year.

Around 7 p.m., sirens and lights could be heard coming up South Second Street as Santa made his approach in a fire truck. Once on stage, Mr. Clause greeted the crowd and joked with Lehman.

“It’s great to be back here in Newark, Ohio! I love this city and I hope all of you were good this year,” Santa said.

He asked the crowd to yell the magic words to turn on the lights, and after three tries they stayed on.

Sisters Rachel and Anna Crist, along with their mother Elizabeth, attend the event almost every year. Rachel looked forward to seeing Santa this year, and Anna enjoyed the lights.

“And the animals over at the nativity scene are pretty cool,” Anna said.

Although the girls wouldn’t be sticking around to visit Santa at the True Core Credit Union lobby, Elizabeth assured they had a private meeting with the Jolly Old Elf later this month.