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55th annual Maspeth tree lighting awakens holiday spirit

Last Friday, the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce brought holiday cheer to the neighborhood with its annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Held in Maspeth Memorial Square, a sentimental corner of the neighborhood, residents gathered on the chilly night to sing Christmas carols, watch performances and spend time with their kids.
Assemblyman Brian Barnwell spoke at the event, thanking the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce and Maspeth Federal Savings Bank for making the tree lighting possible every year.
“Without you guys, we’d be in big trouble,” he said. “In the beginning of the pandemic, they bought and distributed masks to all the first responders that we had. They do so much behind the scenes, and they might not even be aware of their impact.”
The crowd watched the children of “A Song and a Dance” on Grand Avenue perform their holiday-themed routines, with tunes ranging from “Jingle Bell Rock” to Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me.”
Maspeth music icons Liz and Bill Huisman brought their folk inspired sound to the crowd, encouraging everyone to sing along and enjoy the music.
When the tree and all the hanging lights lit up after a ten-second countdown, the scene felt like a winter wonderland in the middle of Maspeth.
Bill Huisman called all the children in attendance to join him in singing classic Christmas carols while he played his guitar.
In the spirit of giving, two raffles were held, and two lucky winners got to go home with an Amazon Echo and a brand new bicycle from local business Grand Bicycle.
The highlight of the evening was when Santa Claus arrived. Even though it happens annually, Maspeth resident Tammy Sanchez said events like the tree lighting are essential to the community, especially now.
“They really put a lot of effort into it year after year,” she said. “With all the craziness going on in the world, this is the one thing that they can do for the community to bring happiness and get everyone into the holiday spirit. I am thankful that they do this for the neighborhood.”

Holiday season officially arrives in Woodhaven

The 2021 Holiday Season was officially welcomed to Woodhaven Friday night with a wonderful celebration capped by the annual lighting of the Holiday Tree at Forest Parkway.
Sponsored by the Woodhaven Business Improvement District, this year’s celebration included pictures with Santa, hot cocoa and balloons for the kids.
“What better way to start the holiday season than with one of Woodhaven’s favorite traditions, the Christmas tree lighting,” said WBID executive director Raquel Olivares. “It was so great to see so many people from the neighborhood coming together, especially children, to remind us why Woodhaven is a special place.”
It was a welcome return to normal. It was good to see so many people come out for this tradition, including the Color Guard from the Franklin K. Lane ROTC. But as much as I think they came out for the tree and the cocoa and the pictures with Santa, I think a lot of people came out to see each other.
Both of our representatives in the City Council were on hand for the celebration, Robert Holden and recently elected Joann Ariola. And Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar came by to wish everyone well.
We were happy to see them and appreciated them taking the time to visit Woodhaven, especially when they have so many other special celebrations in their districts to attend.
The students of PS 97, under the leadership of Ms. Caceres, did a wonderful job singing different holiday songs celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, wrapping up with “Feliz Navidad.” I used to go to PS 97 when I was a little kid more than a few years ago, and as an alumnus I was very proud of these bright young kids.
The highlight of the night was, of course, Santa Claus. He came in, riding down Forest Parkway in a convertible driven by its owner, Community Board 9 chair Kenichi Wilson. Santa waved at the crowd and the kids cheered as loud as the train roaring into the Forest Parkway station.
There’s a nice story behind this year’s Santa, who was played this year by Officer Nick Salamone of the 102nd Precinct. This was his first time as Santa, and besides having the perfect first name to play St. Nick, he turned out to be a natural.
After a few tentative waves and getting a great response from the kids, our St. Nick let loose with a few booming “Ho Ho Ho’s” and everyone at Forest Parkway knew for certain that Santa had arrived. A few minutes later, Santa led the crowd in a countdown to lighting the tree.
Afterwards, children and their parents lined up to take pictures with St. Nick, while everyone else gathered in small groups and caught up with friends they hadn’t seen in a while. The temps were low that night, but we all got through it due to all the warmth generated by the people of Woodhaven.
It will be a memorable December for Forest Parkway Plaza. This coming Saturday at noon, the WBID will be presenting Frostbite Follies featuring the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus.
The Frostbite Follies consists of jugglers and clowns and various acrobats, as well as live music. They are currently barnstorming their way around New York City giving free outdoor performances.
There will be limited seating, so get there early to get a good view. The WBID will be providing popcorn and candy to all guests.
Congratulations to Raquel Olivares and Katty Garces and the entire Woodhaven Business Improvement District for their great work on this year’s tree lighting and for bringing the circus here to Woodhaven. It was great seeing everyone Friday night, and I hope to see you all again on Forest Parkway this Saturday.

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