PORTLAND – Hannah Storey was ready for her big moment.

“I want to push the candy cane,” Hannah, an 11-year-old from Cumberland, said before taking the stage at Monument Square.

The oversized candy cane switch, of course, is what activates the thousands of lights on Portland’s giant Christmas tree. The honor was bestowed on Hannah, a Make-A-Wish child with cystic fibrosis, as a bonus to her main wish: a trip to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas in January.

Hundreds of people filled Monument Square on Friday evening for the annual lighting ceremony. The Maine State Ballet kicked off the entertainment with a piece from “The Nutcracker.” Rick Charette and the Bubblegum Band got the crowd moving with songs like “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

Eleven-month-old Landen McIntyre was happily perched on his mother’s hip as she bounced to the song “I Love Mud.” Landen wasn’t the only member of the Scarborough family who was out for the tree lighting for the first time. His mother, Stephanie Landen, grew up in Cornish and had never seen it. His father, Shaun Landen, hadn’t been for some years.

“Right now, with this guy, we’ll make it a tradition,” he said.

The Pelkey family from Portland was soaking in the atmosphere nearby.

Two-year-old Maddox was jumping up and down while holding the hands of his mother, Carolyn Pelkey. “Dance!” he exclaimed. Ava, who turns 4 today, sat atop the shoulders of her father, Jeremy Pelkey.

The children were back to see the tree in its full glory. They had seen it after it was delivered to Monument Square from its longtime home in South Portland.

“When the tree came to town, we had to visit,” Carolyn Pelkey said.

The annual tree-lighting ceremony is put on by Portland’s Downtown District, and sponsored by MEMIC, WCYY, The Portland Press Herald, WPXT and WPME.

The 55-foot Colorado blue spruce was donated by Lori and Allan Huff. The tree was already in place — though probably not even half its current size — when they moved to their South Portland home some 20 years ago.

Lori Huff learned that the tree required 4,050 LED lights — more than usual for the Monument Square tree. About 15 years ago, the Huffs had tried without success to decorate the tree themselves. Whether it was just too many bulbs, or perhaps user error, as Lori believes may be the case, they couldn’t get the lights to work.

No such problems Friday as Hannah pushed the candy cane and the tree went aglow.

“Love it!” Lori Huff said. “It is beautiful, isn’t it?”

Staff Writer Ann S. Kim can be  contacted at 791-6383 or at:

[email protected]