PITTSFIELD

Four-year-old Brayden Ryan did the honors, flicking the switch that lit up the city's 24-foot tall, 2,600 pound Christmas tree on Friday night.

Conditions were soggy. A few fewer degrees on the thermometer and they might have been perfect, bringing snow to hang among the boughs. Instead, it remained stubbornly above freezing.

"It seems like every year we get this kind of weather at the Christmas tree lighting," said Linda Ryan, Brayden's mother.

Several hundred people gathered in Park Square nevertheless. They crowded around the tree as the Taconic High School Choir filled the air with popular carols. Others went for the hot cocoa station.

All breathed a collective sigh when all the tree's lights lit, after only a few came on initially.

Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi addressed his remarks to those in need, within the community, the country and abroad.

"This is a season of goodwill," Bianchi said. "I want you all to give yourselves a Christmas present. Engage in an act of charity for someone else."

Bianchi also gave special thanks to Brayden's grandfather, Bruce Ryan, who grew the tree from a sapling in the front yard of his home, located off of Elm Street.

"I bought that tree for five dollars in Dalton," Ryan said.

It took 21 years for the tree, a blue spruce, to reach its present size. Before it became so large, Ryan had decorated it annually. He said that hadn't happened in at least a decade.

The tree had become too cumbersome for his yard, so Ryan called the city this summer and entered his name into the running with a handful of other people who wanted to donate the 2013 Christmas tree.

He dedicated the tree to his mother, Helen.

"I think I'm going to plant another," he said. "In another 21 years I'll be 91, and I'll see if Pittsfield wants that one, too."

Jessica Passetto, Taconic's chorus director, said chorus group that sang Friday night is a special one. Sixteen of them were accepted into the Massachusetts Music Educators Association's Western District Honors Choir -- a new school record. Seven of these, she said, have a chance to go all-state.

"They've practiced and really worked hard," she said. "And all of us love Christmas carols."

To reach Phil Demers:
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