It was a festive night of high spirits, bright lights and rides on big shoulders as Red Bank welcomed in the Christmas holiday season Friday night. (Photo by Rebecca Desfosse. Click to enlarge)


The turkey’s done, the present shopping has begun, and now the holiday season is officially in full swing in Red Bank. The annual Black Friday Santa Claus sighting, parade to Broad Street, downtown light-up and Holiday Express concert hit the town Friday night to the delight of thousands of area residents.

It was a night jam-packed with events. First, dancers from the Kathryn Barnett School of Dance showed off their fancy footwork to the tunes of holiday classics. Then, the Pipes and Drums of the Atlantic Watch treated the gatherers to the sounds of bagpipes.

Next, it was time for what all the little ones were waiting for: the white-bearded man with the overstuffed bag.

Santa arrived on the scene on a fire truck to a chorus of claps and cheers. With a wave from Santa, the group of merry makers paraded down Monmouth Street to light the Christmas tree in the Dublin House Pub courtyard.

As the parade turned the corner onto Broad Street, Holiday Express kick-started its 800th performance, with tunes like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” and “Frosty the Snowman” (complete with Mr. Frosty himself). Though the weather was fair, Holiday Express brought its own winter wonderland, shooting snowflakes out into the audience to the glee of kids and adults alike.

A nonprofit organization that helps those in need, Holiday Express also puts on a rockin’ show – one that had the whole audience dancing and singing along. Justyne Camano, one of the celebrants, really enjoyed the music, saying the band played, “an awesome mix of Christmas classics and classic rock. I loved their rendition of ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’”

Tim McLoone, the front man of Holiday Express, acknowledged that this year, the holiday season “may not be the most wonderful time of the year for some,” but that with the support of those around us, those affected by Hurricane Sandy will rebuild and recover.

Then, with a flash of light, the downtown was lit up, officially ushering in the holiday season. Between the tunes and the lights, it was a night to make any Grinch’s heart grow three sizes.