Scores of excited children lined up inside Howland-Hughes to meet an unusually attentive Santa Claus  during the Miracle On Bank Street presented by the Connecticut Dance Theatre and the City of Waterbury.

The event kicked off with a sing-a-long led by WATR’s Tom Chute and several elected officials. Mayor Mike Jarjura (left) said he has been leading the event in singing for the past ten years and now he passed the torch to mayor-elect Neil O’Leary. Also joining the two men on stage were State Senator Joan Hartley, Board of Education commissioner Jason Van Stone, and aldermen Paul Pernerewski and Carlo Palladino.

The annual event was moved off the Green this year because city workers were unable to string lights due to tree damage and clean-up of the Halloween nor’easter. Several hundred people came out to enjoy community singing, and a chance to view the Connecticut Dance Theatre’s “Festival of Trees” that took up 20,000 square feet inside the old Howland-Hughes Department store. The Festival of Trees continues for several weeks with special performances of Clara and the Nutcracker, and other opportunities to meet Santa Claus and Donner the talking reindeer.

Mayor Mike Jarjura ushered Santa Claus and Abraham Lincoln inside Howland-Hughes after the carolling was finished.

Donner the talking reindeer was a big hit with children of all ages. Donner used to visit Howland-Hughes every year and his return to downtown Waterbury last night was tremendous.

An ancillary benefit of the Festival of Trees was that hundreds of people who had never seen the Waterbury Hall of Fame had the opportunity to read about the astonishing deeds of Waterburians. The plaques have been hanging inside Howland-Hughes for nearly a decade.

Santa Claus was in an introspective mood last night and spent a few minutes with every child who came to visit with him. Santa asked thoughtful questions and forged real connections. Many Waterburians hold fond memories of meeting Santa for the first time inside the old Howland-Hughes Department store. New memories were created last night.

State Senator Joan Hartley and Board of Education commissioner Jason Van Stone helped belt out a few holiday tunes.

WATR’s Tom Chute was his usual bubbly self as he emceed the event. Event goers who brought a can of food or an unwrapped present received a Frankie’s hot dog. The Bob Mobilia Orchestra provided the music for the carolling.

Members of the Litchfield County Children’s Choir combined with two other choirs to fill the inside of Howland-Hughes with holiday spirit.

Hayrides circled around Bank Street, Center Street, Leavenworth and West main Street to provide an additional touch of class to the Miracle on Bank Street.