PEPPERELL -- Hundreds of Pepperell residents packed the Lawrence Library lawn last Friday night to take pictures with Santa Claus and watch the town's annual Christmas tree lighting, despite pouring rain.

Organized by the Friends of the Lawrence Library, the tree lighting brings the community together with caroling, hot cocoa and Christmas cheer.

This year's festivities were organized by Laurie Bulkow, Vice President of the Friends, and hosted by Friends member Kim Green.

Green acknowledged all of the donors who contributed to the evening. Donelan's provided apple cider and cookies, Pepperell Music Center set up the sound system and Twin Brook Farms donated the tree, which was set up in front of the library.

Entertainment was provided by members Girl Scout Troop 11195 and Appleseeds Preschool students, who sang Christmas songs before Santa arrived.

The fire, police, and public works departments also helped with setting up and running the event.

"It really brings the community together. There are so many different parts of the town that help put this together. Everyone comes together this time of year," Green said.

Although she couldn't recall how many years the tree lighting has gone on for, Green said it has become a staple of December in Pepperell.

"It's the start of the holiday season. People look forward to seeing the tree. It's an important part of the town and really just gives a sense of community," she said.

Library Director Deb Spratt wore a Santa hat, and said that this is her favorite time of year.

"It's a wonderful important social event that brings families together, and it's a good way for new people in the community to connect with others," Spratt said.

The event also provided an opportunity for residents to pay their holiday cheer forward, by donating non-perishable food items to Pepperell Aid from Community to Home Outreach, the town's food pantry.

"Incorporating PACH donations really reinforces the spirit of the season, which is giving," Spratt said.

Kerry Caldwell attended the tree lighting for the first time this year, despite having lived in Pepperell for several years.

"I came mostly just to be in the town spirit and to get more involved in the community. That's important, especially this time of year," Caldwell said.

Caldwell came on the recommendation of her 6-year-old daughter Sophia, who went last year with a friend.

"I liked seeing Santa and drinking hot cocoa," Sophia Caldwell said.

Victor Raposo and his 11-year-old daughter Isabella attended for the eighth time this year.

"We try to make it a tradition. It has a special meaning. It's Christmas," he said.