Standing in Hyde Square, outgoing Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino found himself engulfed in a mob of excited children clamoring to meet not him but Santa, who was handing out presents and candy canes.
“Take it easy, take it easy,” Menino pleaded into the microphone, as the clamoring throng surrounded him and pushed their way to the stage. “Everyone will get to meet Santa, just take it easy.”
While he was playing second-fiddle to the man in the red suit in Jamaica Plain, many who crowded the Saturday afternoon stops on the mayor’s 16-leg Enchanted Trolley Tour were there to see Menino. For a mayor who has spent much of his time in office in the neighborhoods, the three-day Christmas tree lighting ceremonies — long one of Menino’s favorite annual events — have doubled as a farewell tour of sorts.
“Thank you, Mayor!” and “We love you, Mayor Menino,” declared signs being waved by excited parents and children at many of the stops.
Menino, who has lit hundreds of Christmas trees during his 20-year tenure in City Hall’s corner office, spent Saturday afternoon being shuttled from neighborhood to neighborhood, where he was met by warmly dressed crowds eager to see him — and Santa, too.
‘This is about the people; it’s about the neighborhoods. I just love seeing the city so happy.’Mayor Thomas M. Menino
“This is about the people; it’s about the neighborhoods,” Menino said, as he rode the trolley between stops. “I just love seeing the city so happy.”
At each stop, costumed actors performed a brief skit before introducing Menino, who delivered a short speech, then had the Red Sox’s 2013 World Series trophy brought onto the stage.
“He’s wonderful,” said 10-year-old Darlene Janvier, who shuffled from foot to foot as her mittened hands held a sign with a Christmas tree drawn in forest green marker that declared “Thank You, Mayor” at the Mission Hill tree lighting.
“He’s a good mayor, and we’re thankful that we’ve gotten to have him,” she said, grinning.
Most of the signs held in Roxbury were drawn by children at the nearby Tobin Community Center.
“It’s his last Christmas as mayor, so we wanted to let him know that this community appreciates him and everything he has done for us,” said John Jackson, the center’s administrative coordinator.
When Menino descended from the trolley about a half-hour later near the Dudley Square branch of the Boston Public Library, about 100 people were waiting.
“For all he did for Boston, I can’t even describe it. He really cares about the people,” said Barbara Irby of Randolph, who came to Boston for the day specifically to see Menino.
The tour’s last stop, at Oak Square in Brighton, was equally packed.
“I think he’s done a great job for the city,” said Josh Tobin, 40, of Watertown, minutes before the tree-lighting ceremony. “I’m sure people are excited to see him and it’s great he can do this on his farewell tour.”
Tobin was at the holiday ceremony with his wife, Kari, 38, and their nephews, Sebastian, 6, and Jonah, 4, who live in Brighton.
“The kids love it. It’s a nice event,” Tobin said. “They get to see Santa Claus. They’re very excited to see Santa Claus.”
The tour was also a family affair for Menino, whose trolley was filled with family members, city employees, and longtime friends and advisers.
As the troupe prepared to depart from one of the afternoon stops, the mayor insisted that they locate his young grandson, Tommy, and bring the boy to sit next to him.
When he finally found his young grandson, Menino teased the boy about why he wasn’t wearing his Red Sox jacket.
He then told Tommy how excited he was to get to attend the tree-lighting this year, after spending much of last year’s holiday season in the hospital, from October until late December. Last year, he told Tommy, he was too sick, hospitalized with a respiratory infection.
As the trolley passed Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Menino pointed up to the floor where he stayed, reminding his grandson that they were up there at this time last year.
“Aren’t you glad to be out here with all of the people this year?” one of Menino’s top aides asked his grandson as the trolley caravan coasted past the hospital.
Tommy nodded slightly, his head bobbing up in down just above the collar of his Patriots’ coat.
“Yeah,” the outgoing mayor said, glowingly glancing down at his grandson. “I am too.”