HARRISBURG – State Sen.-elect Dale Fowler lit the city Christmas tree in a ceremony Tuesday evening, signaling both a start to the holiday season and an end to his time as Harrisburg mayor.
"It's been an honor to serve as the mayor of Harrisburg," he told the crowd of about 100 gathered around the unlit tree.
Fowler will be sworn in as senator of the 59th State Senate District on Jan. 11. He said City Commissioner John McPeek, also in attendance, likely would succeed him as Harrisburg mayor.
For the past 10 years, the Saline County Historical Society has hosted a tree-lighting ceremony for the city along with county residents at the Saline County Museum grounds on South Feazel Street.
Traditionally, the Harrisburg city mayor lights the tree. At the same event, youngsters visited Santa Claus, and the Saline County Homemakers provided cookies and hot apple cider.
Also, the Saline County Chamber of Commerce had an excited line of bundled-up children eager to get a cup of hot chocolate.
Delores Vick, a member of both the historical society and the homemakers group, said former Harrisburg Mayor Ron Morse presided over the first such tree-lighting ceremony.
The choir of Bankston Fork Church also sang Christmas carols at the ceremony, providing a welcome break from the cold temperatures and wind.
Fowler also told the crowd he was ready to start his job in the Illinois Senate.
"I'm just excited to go where the Good Lord leads me," he said.