They giggled, they cheered and they swooned when Cincinnati's hometown heartthrob Nick Lachey bounded onto stage as St. Nick on Friday for the city's annual tree-lighting ceremony.
Lachey fooled the younger crowd of some 10,000 who covered every inch of Fountain Square and its surrounding streets, but not savvy Nick Lachey followers like Marissa Starks, 29, and Lynn McKenzie, 59, both of Shandon.
"It's Nick Lachey!" said Starks, just seconds after Lachey - dressed in a Santa Claus outfit - came out to direct members of Team Cincinnati, winners of NBC's 2007 Clash of the Choirs show. "You can tell by the face it's him."
"He's cute," McKenzie said.
Plenty of others swooned, too, even those who were fooled at first by the Santa suit.
"I don't think Nick Lachey is coming," 11-year-old Jessica Wetherell announced to her mother while Santa/Lachey conducted the choir.
Eventually Lachey let the throngs of Christmas revelers in on the secret when he took off his flowing white hair, beard and hat.
"The secret's out," Lachey said.
And with that, a different Santa bounded onto the skating rink and dazzled the crowd with his skating prowess.
The tree-lighting ceremony has been a main draw in the city for years. This year's 60-foot tree - the largest ever - is covered with 20,000 white lights.
Since they became parents to 8-year-old twins Kayla and Ray, Ted and Tami Kluemper of Fort Wright have been coming to the city each year the Friday after Thanksgiving to usher in the holidays. Friday's weather was so nice that the family, including 5-year-old Ella, decided to pick up a couple of pizzas and have a picnic on the square during the festivities.
"This is awesome," Ted Kluemper said.