picture by: Eric Ayres/File
It’s already starting to look a lot like Christmas in the Ohio Valley, and on Wednesday night the city of Wheeling will declare the holiday season officially underway.
The city’s annual Winter on the Plaza celebration will take place Wednesday at The Plaza on Market. Jolly old St. Nick will make an appearance to take command of the tree lighting ceremony in the square to kick off the 2022 festive season.
Partygoers of all ages are invited to join in the festivities, which are scheduled to take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday.
There will be music and activities for attendees beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by a welcome speech from Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott at 6:15 p.m. and the grand entrance of Santa Claus around 6:20 p.m. Upon his arrival, Santa Claus will work his magic and light up the town‘s Christmas tree.
The annual Winter on the Plaza is a relatively new event for the town that has quickly become a holiday tradition that many local families look forward to attending.
“Within a few years, Winter on the Plaza has become a popular and entertaining event for young and old,” Elliott said. “What’s not to love about a holiday tree lighting ceremony, live music, multiple vendors, kids’ activities and, of course, a visit Santa Claus himself? It truly represents the best of Wheeling – our very own take on every holiday movie ever to air on the Hallmark Channel. I hope that future mayors and city councils will carry on this new tradition.
At last year’s event, a spell of unusually warm weather didn’t spoil the fun. In fact, the scene of Winter on the Plaza was transformed into a winter wonderland thanks to local businessman Dean Connors, who helped bring artificial snow to the plaza using a snow machine placed on top of one of its buildings facing the site.
City staff members have been working to pull everything together for this year’s extravaganza, and it looks like snow is once again in the forecast, regardless of the actual weather forecast.
“We are thrilled to host Winter on the Plaza again this year,” said Michele Rejonis, Marketing and Community Relations Specialist for the City of Wheeling. “It’s a big event to kick off the holidays. The music, the lighting of the tree and the excitement of children, young and old, when Santa Claus makes his grand entrance set a festive tone for the season. Add a little snow, and the atmosphere is perfect! It really is a fun night for all.
A live musical performance of festive tunes will be performed by the Joseph sisters this year, and after the tree lighting, children will have the opportunity to share their holiday wishes with Santa.
Several vendors and stations with activities of local organizations will be set up all around the square during the event.
Currently, activities and vendors include the following: Bounce Slide by Tripp’s Fun Zone; arts and crafts stations by the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission, Wheeling Parks and Recreation, Wheeling Heritage and Volunteer Wheeling; West Liberty University Speech and Hearing with a sensory activity station; Junior League of Wheeling, Letters to Santa Claus; Krystal’s Cookie Connection, pastries; Opossum Pouch Soft Goods with backpacks, pouches and other items; and Small Business Saturday with an information station hosted by RED and the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce.
Other participants include the Wheeling Nailers; Daniel Thorne, light-up toys and restless spinners; Usborne Books, children’s books; Be Kind Ceramics with holiday decor; and the So Nuts for Donuts food truck.
A number of local businesses around the square are expected to have extended hours on Wednesday to remain open during the event.
For more information on this year’s Winter on the Plaza, call the City of Wheeling at 304-234-6432.