By Tara Vocino
Approximately 1,000 people came out for the Santa Walk on Saturday afternoon, where they gave a $20 donation to travel down Broadway onto the finish line at City Hall for several hours of Christmas festivities.
Organizer Priscilla Nickerson, who is the community liaison in City Hall, said that in its seventh year, the event has raised approximately $1,500 to beautify the city. She is looking into the possibility of purchasing oxygen masks for dogs and cats injured in fires that are in danger of smoke inhalation, and/or funding St. Mary’s concession stands when they are built.
During her introductory speech in front of City Hall, Nickerson became emotional as she credited her late mother, RoseMarie Solimine, and Rita Ciulla, who both died of lung cancer in April and were instrumental in the Santa Walk. Approximately $3,000 of the Sgt. Street Mural was paid for using the money raised for previous Santa Walks, according to Nickerson.
Loretta and Ricci LaCentra, who were dressed as conjoined twins, were walking the kickoff route from the High School to City Hall, with shirts that said “naughty” and “nice,” sporting opposite “nice” and “naughty” mittens. “We have to tell each other what direction to go in,” said Loretta LaCentra, who wished everyone a Merry Christmas. “It’s a fun costume and a tradition for us.”
James Keenan, 10, was in front of City Hall waiting to see Santa arrive on the Fire Truck. James was wearing a Christmas-themed Oh Snap shirt and said he enjoyed the community coming together and being in the newspaper. “After Thanksgiving is a great time to have Santa visit,” James said. “Merry Christmas, and Happy Hanukkah.”
His mother, Joyce, thanked the city for putting on this event for children.
In the parking lot behind City Hall, freelance artist Sabrina Gafken was asking children to use sidewalk chalk to draw the Gingerbread Man, Christmas tree, a candy cane, and a Christmas wreath.
Beside the sidewalk art, Giovanni Capachetti, 10, was riding the train with his brother, Carmine, 12, driven by Shawn Nally of Elliot, Maine. They shared what the train ride was like. “It was bumpy … which made it more exciting,” Carmine Capachetti said. “Now is perfect timing, because it already snowed a couple of times.”
Giovanni Capachetti felt that the one-minute train ride around the City Hall parking lot was too short.
Their, father, Carmine Capachetti Sr., said the event is a Class A Act, thanking Mike Zaccaria, of Action Ambulance, for providing free hot chocolate and coffee. “It’s wonderful that he does this for the kids,” Carmine Sr. said.
Anna Doucette, 9, was riding the train when she said that she is counting down the 23 days (at the time) until Christmas. “I’m getting ready,” Anna said excitedly.
In one of the white tents in the parking lot, Brenda Tarrentino was buying an essential oil bracelet; anxiety relief spray, called Adios Anxiety; a Grinch ornament; and a pug purse for gifts for her children from Malden resident Kristina Kantos, of Kristina Oil Creations, and Scott McCraney, of Seeking Om.
Vendor Michele Jeffrey Peltroche, of Seacoast Creations, made her best-seller Grinch ornament out of gold glitter and green and black paint. “I’m going to donate a percentage to whatever the cause is this year,” Peltroche said. “They don’t charge for a table, which costs from $25 to $175 at most craft fairs.”
Jackson Silvestri, 19 months, was waiting to have his photograph taken with Santa when he yelled out excitedly that Santa is bringing him toys. He also had a ball riding the train earlier in the day.
His mother, Shannon Sparks, said he was fascinated that the lights magically come on later that night at the Tree Lighting.
Jackson’s grandmother, Sharon Silvestri, said she can’t say enough about the event. “It’s a great family event to get us into the holiday spirit early,” Silvestri said. “We are headed in the right direction with more children activities.”
Tim Lombard said this event gets everyone in the Christmas spirit early, adding that he liked a larger version in past years.
Tara Vocino may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.