New Canaan residents converged downtown Friday evening to see their beloved Elm Street turned into a winter wonderland for the holiday season.

Stores were open late, Santa Claus arrived on Old Faithful and the aroma of holiday treats was everywhere.

Youngsters from the Magical Music Singers were in the spotlight in front of the movie theater, entertaining the crowds with holiday songs and even a few plays.

The Saxe Middle School band performed a diverse selection of holiday tunes, from "Let it Snow" to "Dreidel."

"This is our second year doing the Holiday Stroll," conductor Chris Coulter said. "The kids were really excited and we hope to make this an annual tradition."

Santa's highly anticipated arrival at 6:30 p.m. also cued the countdown to the festive illumination of the Elm Street holiday lights.

"It's wonderful here," said first-time Holiday Stroll attendee Lindsay Patsch, who attended with her family. "It's crazy, but it's great."

When asked what her favorite part of the stroll was, her 14-month-old son smiled as she said, "I think it's Santa."

The mix of people, entertainment and lights filled First Selectman Jeb Walker with the holiday spirit.

"It feels very much like Christmas," Walker said. "The lights are on and all the stores are open; it just looks right."

Whether it was Santa, hot chocolate from Gelatissimo, hot cider and biscuits from Le Pain Quotidien, crepes and apple sauce from Design Solutions or the ever popular waffles from Okemo Mountains's Waffle Cabin, everyone had something they loved about the stroll.

"It was very successful," Dan Mulhern, owner of M. Milestones, said. "The weather cooperated and everyone enjoyed it." Mulhern estimated that there were more than 2,000 people in attendance and that Saturday was just as spirited.

"People were out and about and the stores had some nice energy."

While there are various estimations on how many people were around Friday evening, Tucker Murphy, head of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce, believes the actual number exceeded 3,000 people.

"I think since it was the sixth annual Holiday Stroll, it really caught on with everyone in town," Murphy said. She attributed the surge in attendance to the time shift this year. Last year, the stroll began at 5:30 p.m. as opposed to 6 p.m. and that allowed more time for people to get out of work and join in on the downtown festivities.

"It went really, really well," Ann Lathrop, owner of the Toy Chest, said. "It was a fun, festive family night."

In terms of the success of the stores she jokingly added, "I think it was cold enough that people went inside to shop."

Pauline Dora, owner of Design Solutions, could not say enough good things about the stroll. "It was what New Canaan was all about," she said. "We sold 250 crepes in 45 minutes. It was a great and terrific night."

Dora indicated that she wishes the chain stores in town did more to get involved but was very pleased with the whole weekend.

"A lot of people were around," she said. "I think Tucker Murphy should be given a gold medal or a Nobel Prize for all the work she did."

Murphy, on the other hand, is simply content with the news that the weekend was a success rather than accepting accolades.

"It really was terrific," she said. "The real mission here was to kick off the holiday shopping season and I am thrilled that the merchants had a great weekend. Also, that waffle cabin was a home run." Murphy also elaborated that the Friday night ceremony of lighting up Elm Street really separates New Canaan from any other town. "A lot of other town's have holiday strolls," she said. "But it really doesn't get any better than that Friday night. It's just magical."