Aaron Bessant Park lights up for tree lighting festival

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Visitors kicked off the holiday season at Aaron Bessant Park in Panama City Beach by celebrating the city tree lighting Monday night.

The celebration's epicenter was the park's amphitheater.

Guests enjoyed choir performances from Hutchison Beach, West Bay, and Patronis Elementary Schools, preceded by a parade courtesy of Arnold High School's marching band.

The band introduced Santa and Mrs. Claus riding on top of a firetruck.

Essay contest winners were also honored on stage.

Mayor Mike Thomas was in attendance with his family.

"There's a great crowd out here tonight. The weather's fall, so I mean everybody's dressed good. Churches and different civic clubs are setting up, giving out cookies and hot chocolate, bunch of kids running around. Life's good," Mayor Thomas said.

Members of West Bay's choir reflected on their favorite songs they performed.

"I like 'Mary, Did You Know?' because it's a very good song. It talks about God and everything else," said fourth grader Ava Hunt. Her friend and classmate, Eevie McCutcheon, agreed.

Mayor Mike Thomas said this was the first year the annual tree lighting was held at Aaron Bessant Park.