Luckily the crowd didn't have to wait too long. Less than 20 minutes after the event commenced at 6:45, the sounds that accompany Santa's annual arrival could be heard coming down Main Street-not the galloping of reindeer hooves pulling Santa's sleigh, but rather the sirens of an altogether different sort of bright, red transportation: A Pepperell fire truck. Each year, Santa parks his sleigh and reindeer down at Pepperell Skydiving, said Lee Ann Phoenix, president of the Friends of the Lawrence Library, and is transported by the Fire Department.
Then, once he arrives, he takes his place by the Christmas tree and, on the count of three, lights the tree.
"The children's eyes just light up. It's magical," said Kim Green, co-chairwoman of the event.
A chorus of voices from the Girl Scouts of Troop 11195 filled the air in a harmony of holiday tunes, accompanied by students of the Appleseed Preschool. After the tree was lit, Santa took his place in a special workshop built in the top floor of the library, as droves of children lined up to have their photos taken with him. On the way out the door, Brownies and Junior Troops passed out bags of homemade reindeer food, complete with oatmeal and glitter.
Most of the children in attendance agreed: Seeing Santa was the best part of the evening.
"I haven't seen him in a while," said Riley Adamson, 6, adding that he looked like he hadn't changed much since the last time she had laid eyes on him.
For others, like 6-year-old Charlie Laprad, who was in attendance with his aunt Anne Marie Trowbridge, it was the first meeting the fabled figure. And it was worth every minute.
"I got to see Santa all night," said Charlie, his voice giddy with excitement. "And he even gave me a high five."
WROR radio station was also in attendance, a truck parked next to the lawn.
"We do these events all over New England," said Jackie O'Brien of WROR. "It's just to get ourselves out there."
The annual event, which is organized by the Friends of the Lawrence Library, has been taking place since the 1980s and has long since been a holiday staple for many residents of Pepperell.
"I think it's been such a long-standing tradition that people just know about and they bring their kids to see Santa and see the tree lit," said Phoenix.
Fire Chief Toby Tyler and his wife Cathy have been taking their children to the annual event for the last 13 years. Although the crucial aspects of the event have remained largely the same since it began over two decades ago, it has expanded over the years.
"It seems like there are more and more people every year," said Briana Tyler, 19.
And the whole town helps to make sure the event comes together. The 15-foot tree was donated by Twin Brooks Farm, the cocoa by the Pepperell Spa and the cookies by Donelan's. The DPW helped insert the tree in the ground, Al St. Croix of the Pepperell Music Center took care of the sound and 1A Auto donated tents in case of the rain. Charter Communications helped Santa light the tree, the police directed traffic and, of course, the Fire Department lent a truck.
For the past several years, the Friends of the Lawrence Library have been using the opportunity to have a food drive, collecting non-perishable donations for Pepperell Aid from Community to Home Outreach.
"Everybody comes together to help every year without fail," said Green. "It's a heartwarming event. It just brings people together."