By Tara Vocino
Approximately 1,000 people came out to the Tree Lighting in front of City Hall on Saturday night to take familial pictures after the switch was flicked.
“It’s beautiful,” Rose Nestor said upon seeing the Christmas Tree lit. “It lifts up my spirts.”
Letty Lopez was hoping to see Mrs. Claus on the Fire Truck, but Mrs. Claus said she fell while riding on the float. “I like the colorful, old-fashioned lights,” Lopez said.
Inside City Hall, Mia Bonilla, 6, asked Santa for a tennis racket and camera. Her three-year-old brother, Cesar, 3, asked Santa for Crocs and toys. Their mother, Celina, said they’re grateful to the city for hosting, adding that they’re all excited for Christmas to come.
Mayor Brian Arrigo said the Tree Lighting is a collective effort with many departments involved, including media outlets, Recreation, Police, Fire, City Hall, City Councillors and Action Ambulance.
“We’re lucky to have great weather tonight,” Arrigo addressed the crowd. “From the bottom of my heart, Merry Christmas.”
Many families took pictures in front of the Christmas Tree after it was lit.
Cousins Mason and Max Marotta, 3, commented on what they liked about the Tree Lighting ceremony. Mason Marotta liked to hear Santa beep the horn coming down Broadway on the Fire Truck, and Max Marotta liked listening to the Christmas carols before the Tree Lighting and Arrigo dressed in festive Christmas pants with Santa hats on them.
Meanwhile, Sophia Betatour, 20 months, was playing with decorated Christmas lights in the bushes in front of City Hall.
In front of the tree, one-and-a-half-year-old Matteo told his grandmother, Anna Giunta, that he loved the Tree Lighting. “It’s a beautiful ceremony that brings the community together,” Giunta said.
While taking a group photograph, Melinda Rizzo, 8, said she liked decorating Gingerbread cookies, and her twin, Jennette, liked the Christmas lights. Their father, Ralph, liked the outdoor tents, although it was cold, since it wasn’t as crowded as in the City Hall hallway.
Also at the Tree Lighting Ceremony, Lynda Thomas said her children, Cree, 4, and Jackson, 10, had a great time, adding that the Christmas Carolers were excellent. “It was cute,” Thomas said. “They do a great job.”
Santa photo shoot inside the City Council Chambers
After the Tree Lighting Ceremony, children waited in a long line to take pictures with Santa upstairs in a decked out City Council Chambers.
For Ben Raposo, 6, it was his first time seeing Santa in real life; he added that he held his breath for a tiny bit. “He looked like what I thought,” Ben said. “But is his beard real? Because I thought I saw tape.”
Ben asked Santa for a Nintendo Switch and Dragon Ball Super movie.
After having his photograph taken with Santa with six of his cousins, Nick Rodriguez, 6, said he liked the Christmas Tree Star and the atmosphere. Brothers Max, 3, and Liam Alicea, 2, sat on Santa’s lap and asked him for PAW Patrol cars and toys. Their mother, Maria, said the Christmas festivities are great for children.
Six-year-old Maria Serna asked Santa for a Barbie house.
Riley Sampson, 4, asked Santa to buy her a PAW Patrol Fire Truck, and his friend, Dominic Cevera, 4, asked him for Superman toys. “They had a good time with Santa,” David Cevera said.
Outside in one of the tents behind City Hall, Capria Cataldo, 5, was decorating a Gingerbread cookie, courtesy of the Recreation Center. “Frosting and sprinkles are my two favorite things in the world,” Capria said. “My favorite part is eating it.”
Her sister Valentina, 9, got icing all over her coat sleeve and was upset. Her other sister, Adrianna, 9, said she killed it, adding her favorite part was the icing. Their father, Daniel, called her a natural.
At the next table over, Sara Pietro, 3, was spreading cream and red dots onto the Gingerbread Cookie.
Tara Vocino may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org