Subscribe
Elaine Rice offers a candy cane to 4-year-old Julia Turro as the girl's mother, Gloria Dameron, looks on. Rice was handing out candy during Friday night's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Yokota Air Base, Japan, chapel.

Elaine Rice offers a candy cane to 4-year-old Julia Turro as the girl's mother, Gloria Dameron, looks on. Rice was handing out candy during Friday night's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Yokota Air Base, Japan, chapel. (Roger Harnack / S&S)

Elaine Rice offers a candy cane to 4-year-old Julia Turro as the girl's mother, Gloria Dameron, looks on. Rice was handing out candy during Friday night's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Yokota Air Base, Japan, chapel.

Elaine Rice offers a candy cane to 4-year-old Julia Turro as the girl's mother, Gloria Dameron, looks on. Rice was handing out candy during Friday night's annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Yokota Air Base, Japan, chapel. (Roger Harnack / S&S)

"Santa Claus" Ret. Tech Sgt. Dean Labdon waves as his Yokota Fire Department "sleigh" arrives Friday night at the Yokota Air Base, Japan, chapel, just in time for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony there.

"Santa Claus" Ret. Tech Sgt. Dean Labdon waves as his Yokota Fire Department "sleigh" arrives Friday night at the Yokota Air Base, Japan, chapel, just in time for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony there. (Roger Harnack / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Santa Claus arrived here Friday night to usher in the holiday season in conjunction with the annual base Christmas tree-lighting ceremony outside the chapel.

Sirens blared as Santa — played by Ret. Master Sgt. Dean Labdon — rolled in atop a Yokota Fire Department truck.

Almost immediately, hundreds of children — base officials estimated more than 500 people attended — rushed to the driveway where the truck stopped, hoping for a chance to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus — played by Christina Botteicher.

Labdon stepped off the truck and wound his way with Botteicher to a stage where 374th Airlift Wing Commander Col. Mark Schissler and several base chaplains awaited.

Schissler summoned 19-year-old Airman Eric Adamo to throw the switch and illuminate the base Christmas tree.

Adamo, who hails from Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., is the newest airman on base, Schissler said.

The crowd slowly counted down and Adamo pushed a large lever, illuminating the holiday display beside the chapel.

Adamo called the honor a “very joyous” start to the holiday season.

Santa’s arrival and Adamo’s lighting of the tree were the highlights of the ceremony that also included performances by U.S. Air Force Band of the Pacific-Asia’s Pacific Brass and Yokota High School Choir, as well as Schissler’s keynote speech.

During his speech, Schissler called the night “magical”

“The season that’s upon us is a season of hope and a season of wonder,” he said. “I don’t want to be anywhere tonight but here with you.”

After the ceremony, Yujo Community Center hosted a holiday party with pizza and sandwiches, drawings and of course, “Santa” Labdon.

“Everything is great,” Labdon said. “I just wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.”

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up