Hilliard's 21st annual tree-lighting ceremony is set from 6-8 p.m. next Thursday, Dec. 2, at a new location, the Historical Village in Weaver Park adjacent to the Franklin County Fairgrounds.

Hilliard's 21st annual tree-lighting ceremony is set from 6-8 p.m. next Thursday, Dec. 2, at a new location, the Historical Village in Weaver Park adjacent to the Franklin County Fairgrounds.

In years past, the tree lighting has been held in Municipal Park, but as part of a new spirit of cooperation among community organizations, a new venue is being tried.

"This is going to be a big deal this year," Recreation and Parks director Steve Mazer told Hilliard City Council members last week. "There's a large Christmas tree next to the gazebo. We have other groups who are very interested and very involved."

According to Destination Hilliard executive director Christy Clark, the city of Hilliard, Franklin County Agricultural Society, Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce, Hilliard Arts Council, Hilliard Civic Association, Hilliard Parks and Recreation Department, Hilliard Senior Center, Hilliard Youth and Family Commission, Lions Club, Northwest Franklin County Historical Society and Norwich Township are all part of the month-long "Olde Hilliard Christmas."

"It is simply fantastic to see all these organizations come together to plan an event which we hope will draw thousands of families and visitors to the area," Clark said.

The tree-lighting ceremony will feature ice sculpting and fire juggling, carols from Scioto Darby Elementary School, trolley rides, hot chocolate and kettle corn, and a first-time appearance by Santa Claus himself.

"We expect a bigger crowd this year, with the new venue and new events," said recreation supervisor Beth Simon. "This year, it will be special."

In addition to the Christmas tree, the entire Historical Village will be decorated and lit.

"You will not be able to miss the village when you drive down Main Street. The lights will certainly stand out," said Ben Buoni, president of the Northwest Franklin County Historical Society.

Simon said people can walk or drive through the village from 5-10 p.m. nightly in December to see the lights.

Children will be able to drop off letters to Santa at a mail box from Dec. 2-17. They'll get a response, too. "That's another new portion of this event that we've never done before," Simon said. "Our seniors actually are going to answer the letters. They'll be our Santas."