RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The village of Rio Grande was aglow on Saturday night with the lighting of the “Grande” Christmas tree.
The artificial tree came from New York City and is 43-feet tall, said Mayor Matt Easter.
“The Renew Rio Project wanted to put a Christmas tree on the site,” Easter said. “We’re hoping that this is a future site of a new business, but instead of having just a bare lot, Renew Rio wanted to put a tree on it for the community to enjoy.”
The tree lighting event drew in more people than the mayor or anyone expected.
“I really didn’t [expect the crowd], I had no way to talk to the crowd because I had a speech,” Easter said.
With the unexpected large crowd, instead of giving his speech, Easter started a countdown that grew in volume with the crowd until the tree lit the sky.
Easter said he believed there were at least 250 people who came out to the lighting event.
Along with the tree lighting, visitors were able to get cookies or candy, Grinch tokens were given out for ice cream at McDonald’s, photos were taken at the Gallia-Meigs-Jackson Alcohol, Drug Addition and Mental Health (ADAMH) photo booth and there was an opportunity to grab a selfie with the Grinch, himself.
Easter thanked the Rio Ridge Venue for their help with the Grinch and the Village of Rio Grande Police for helping capture the green character.
While the Grinch was giving out hugs to kids and taking selfies with parents, Easter said he has his eye on him.
“The Grinch is reformed, but we still don’t trust him,” Easter said.
ADAMH had its pop-up photo booth giving the opportunity to take pictures with their Christmas backdrop and “Your Presence is a Present” campaign.
Local resident, Teresa Lawson, had her son handing out homemade hats she made. Lawson said she makes them for fun and last-minute decided to hand them out at the event.
“I usually just do it for family, I’ve made like 41 hats this year now,” Lawson said.
Lawson said she makes the hats out of cheap throw blankets, usually getting three hats with one blanket. She also makes masks.
Easter said everything surrounding the event was possible by several people and groups including, Rio Ridge Venue, McDonald’s Rio Grande, the University of Rio Grande, Rio Grande Volunteer Fire Department, Chi Omega Alpha sorority and the Village of Rio Grande Police.
Easter invites the community to Rio Grande’s next Christmas adventure which is the return of the drive-thru event Christmas on the Ridge on Dec. 12, hosted by Rio Ridge Venue at/in conjunction with Bob Evans Farm. Find Rio Ridge Venue on Facebook for the latest on this event.
The lot housing the tree this year is across from Ohio Valley Bank, along Route 325.
“You can’t miss it, it’s a skyscraper,” Easter said.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.