SWANTON — Members of the Swanton community officially rang in the holiday season this Saturday with their Christmas in Swanton celebration, a day long event culminating in the lighting of Swanton’s Memorial Tree in the downtown Village Green Park.

Christmas in Swanton is an extension of Christmas in the Park, Swanton’s annual holiday celebration that usually fills Village Green Park with lines for horse-drawn wagon rides and twinkling lights. This year extended the celebration for the first time to the Holy Trinity Church with an arts and crafts show, an ornament decorating event at the Swanton Public Library and an Ugly Sweater Contest at the town’s VFW.

“Our thought was to keep people here with things like the arts and crafts show, where people can buy locally,” said Adam Paxman, a Village Trustee and one of the lead organizers of Christmas in Swanton.

Between 400 to 500 people came to the event, estimated Lynn Billado, Swanton’s Assistant Health Officer and another Christmas in Swanton organizer.

According to Paxman, events like these are important for communities like Swanton, where officials are hoping to inspire feelings of community as a part of a larger effort to revitalize the town.

“It brings family out,” Paxman said. “The more we bring families out, the stronger the community grows… It’s really important to see activity like this in the community. If you don’t see it, people don’t think to stop.”

This year’s Christmas in Swanton event marked its first inclusion of the Swanton Arts Council’s Handmade Holiday Craft Show, itself an annual event typically held in the weeks leading up to Christmas. According to Heather Buczkowski, who has organized the event for the last three years, the stage provided by the craft show is important for both local artisans and the community.

“These are our neighbors. These are our friends,” Buczkowski said. “It’s really important to support the artists. If you support art, it always comes back to support the community.”

The Swanton Arts Council also produced a series of holiday dresses to decorate Village Green Park’s swan pond. Those dresses, called “Dazzling Dames” by their artists, were strung together from fabric and artificial Christmas trees.

The event’s organizers plan on donating money earned during the event from the sale of memorial ribbons for the event’s centerpiece Memorial Tree and the following Ugly Sweater Contest to the Swanton Community Food Shelf.