A large crowd gathered at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home Mall in Hannibal for the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree with a winter snowstorm forecast the next day but temperatures still in the 50s on Saturday evening, Nov. 24.

A large crowd gathered at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home Mall in Hannibal for the ceremonial lighting of the Christmas tree with a winter snowstorm forecast the next day but temperatures still in the 50s on Saturday evening, Nov. 24.

As children posed for photos with Santa and the official Toms and Beckys met the crowd, Christmas carols were played by the Salvation Army Brass Band. The Toms and Beckys also led the crowd in singing the Christmas carols and holiday music.

Mark Twain (Jim Waddell), he spoke to the crowd before the tree lights were activated. He began by saying he was “humbled by being in the presence of the Salvation Army, because they are an organization that disseminates physical and spiritual nourishment to displaced and impoverished people around the world, without discrimination.”

Twain added, “In 1917, 250 Salvation Army members went to France during World War I. … The women fried donuts in the helmets of the soldiers, which led to the popularity of donuts in America, a thing for which we can all be joyful.”

Twain then quoted Brigham Young, Ben Franklin and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Wilder’s quote was “We are better throughout the year for having our spirit become a child again at Christmas.”

Among the crowd were a former and the current Hannibal mayor. Mayor James Hark and his wife, Leesa, attended with his brother, John Hark, their dad, former Mayor Roy Hark, and his wife, Donna.

Some people at the ceremony were dressed in holiday attire, such as the Grinch (James Jones of Park Forest, Illinois), who was not part of the scheduled program but decided to arrive in costume to meet children.

The youngsters also were excited to take horse and buggy rides, along with petting the two horses. The young Melani Dean got to pet a horse for the first time, held by her dad.

Before beginning their next ride, drivers Donna Jennings and Shannon Nickless said they came to Hannibal from a company in St. Louis.

See photo gallery for more photos of the holiday event.

bev.darr@courierpost.com