UPPER TOWNSHIP — Dozens of people gathered Monday night outside Municipal Hall to usher in the Christmas season at the township’s annual tree lighting ceremony.

Hosted by the Rotary Club of Ocean City and Upper Township, the event featured refreshments, cookies and live music from the UpTown Singers, a local choir.

“This is always a really good event for us,” Mayor Richard Palombo said. “It’s a nice night to be out here — a little chilly.”

The UpTown Singers performed several carols before asking the crowd to participate in holiday favorites such as “Jingle Bells” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Members of the Township Committee and Cape May County Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson, a former committeeman, joined in the singing. Missy Schenck is the choir director.

“It’s just a group of people who like to sing,” Schenck said. “We’re dedicated to community service and music.”

The Rotary Club used the event to name the Rev. Peter Joyce, pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, as the group’s annual citizen of the year.

Rotary Club member Sallie Godfrey said Joyce could not attend the ceremony because he was called to Camden for a meeting at the last minute.

Joyce grew up in Marmora and graduated from Ocean City High School before entering the priesthood, she said.

“He’s a really integral part of the community here,” Palombo added.

As pastor of the Roman Catholic parish, Joyce oversees Church of the Resurrection in Marmora and St. Casimir Church in Woodbine.

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