The snow and chill along with the array of lights and the usual assortment of holiday figures gave the kick off of the Christmas season a real boost, as kids bundled up in heavy coats, gloves and scarves waited patiently for more than an hour for the big man’s arrival.
Large speakers blared out holiday music favorites including the extreme appropriate Bruce Springsteen “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” as a line of kids and parents waited to take their turn to greet Santa and make their request for presents.
This is the 16th year Newport kicked off the holiday season with its Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony.
For most years, the mayor or local council member helped kick off the season. Last year, Mayor Steven Fulop could not attend so Council President Rolando Lavarro led the event, calling it an important occasion for helping to bring the community together in a positive way.
“This is an important event in Jersey City,” Lavarro said.
Although the area is known for its mall and assortment of business buildings, Newport has become defined as a neighborhood in its own right, something that emerged out of the growth of the city’s economic base.
The event is the culmination of activities for the year sponsored by the Newport Mall. Activities during the summer for kids, mall officials said, have expanded greatly.
Ward E Councilwoman Candice Osborne, who will be stepping down from the council on Jan. 1, represents Newport.
She said during one of these ceremonies how surprised she was by the sense of community in the area.
“If you don’t live in Newport, you can’t see the real sense of community that’s there,” she said. “This is showcased during Christmas when all the families come out.”
She said this is refreshing. Although the area is known for its mall and assortment of business buildings, Newport has become defined as a neighborhood in its own right, something that emerged out of the growth of the city’s economic base.
“Just because there are high-rises, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a community,” she said. “One of the reasons I love Jersey City is because every little neighborhood has its own vibe. When I go to neighborhood association meetings, I feel those vibes. And this was nice to experience in Newport.”
These events foster friendships
She said these neighborhoods are growing in a number of ways, especially as new people get involved. Things like Project Market – which brought a number of farmers markets to Jersey City – and the festivals downtown bring out more people.
“These events engage people who weren’t involved before,” Osborne said. “I see new faces at each of the neighborhood association meetings.”
While no public officials showed up this year as in the past – largely due to conflicting meetings – Santa took charge, helping kids flip the switch that started what is always an amazing musical light show, with trees, bushes and other items in the park pulsating to the beat of music, casting the upturned faces into red, blue, green or yellow lights as this tree or that bush burst with color.
Although this year the usual holiday carolers did not appear, kids still got to pose with Santa for pictures, drink hot chocolate or ride the Santa Express Train that made its way around the perimeter of the park.
Each year, Newport Center decorates the park for the holidays, large gift boxes with bows, human sized toy soldiers standing guard over the crisscrossing paths.
If kids minded the cold, they did not show it, climbing onto decorative rocks and stone benches, most giggling in anticipation of what they intended to tell Santa when their turn came to sit on his lap, Santa’s elves guiding them to the small stage and red chair on which Santa sat.
All around, commuters came through to pause and perhaps catch a little of the holiday spirit before rushing off to homes or to some appointment, as the dark came alive around them with sound and colored lights.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.