HARTVILLE An Evening in the Village was a bit more special this year than in past years. While the Christmas tree was lit and Santa arrived, there was one small twist that made it come alive.

Hartville Mayor Cindy Billings was presented the Ohio Magazine Best Hometown award. It was the 21st year for the annual family tradition of gathering around the square in Hartville, lighting the Christmas tree and welcoming Santa Claus as he rode into town on a firetruck. There was plenty of warm cheer, hot food and drinks, live music, wagon rides and much more throughout the evening on Dec. 8.

Just before the lighting of the tree, Jim Vickers, editor of Ohio Magazine, presented a plague to the mayor designating the town as one of the towns selected for this year’s Best Hometown awards. The community team who submitted the application to the magazine joined Billings was on stage.

“We’ve been giving out these awards since 2006; we give out one per region in Ohio each year,” Vickers said. “Either I or one of the representatives from the magazine visit each town during the summer and spends some time in the stores and the restaurants and other areas to get to know the town. I visited Hartville and one of the things that stood out for us about Hartville was the mix of the new businesses and businesses in the older buildings. It shows they are forward thinking while maintaining their heritage and history.”

Vickers added that visiting the towns takes up most of the summer but it gives the people at the magazine a chance to get to know more about Ohio and he said, “that’s what we (the magazine) are all about.”

“Hartville has a small town feel but it is a destination town with the Hartville Flea Market and other areas of interest. People can really get a sense of history when they visit. Plus, there is lots of great food and a great sense of community here,” Vickers said.

“We already knew how great Hartville is but it’s nice to know that others will now learn how great it is,” Billings said.

The turnout for this year’s event had the streets around the square full. Lots of families and kids were enjoying a relatively mild evening of temperatures. In addition to the Ohio Magazine, the tree lighting and Santa, there were stories and books, hot dogs, popcorn, a kid’s train ride, a live nativity, the annual tree and basket auction and a cookie contest.