Valley Stream families felt the festive spirits soar at the village of Valley Stream’s annual holiday Winterfest event kick off last Saturday.
Through the side village pool entrance, residents trekked through a grand display of twinkling lights draped around trees lining the brightly lit path to the Community Center parking lot. The sound of Christmas tunes echoed through Arthur J. Hendrickson Park accented by the bustling voices of children.
Other glimmering decorations from Snoopy to reindeer to Peppa Pig bathed the park in seasonal glow. Families gently petted two dignified steeds mounted by Nassau County officers. Some huddled around a small outdoor bonfire while others looked out at a Christmas tree floating on the adjoining lake or toured the park on trolleys.
“Every year we want to go a little bigger, a little better,” said village recreation director Jimmy Fitzano. “We lit up the trees on Merrick Road. And we put curtain lights coming down the path to the Community Center.”
It was more than a monthlong process, noted Fitzano, every village department played a role in making the glamorous event possible.
“Everything was done in-house, lighting one tree at a time,” said Fitzano. “And we love doing it for residents.” Fitzano was also thankful the weather was close to 50 degrees this year, compared to the freezing temperatures of last year’s celebration.
At the Community Center grounds, members from Valley Stream Boy Scouts Troop 116 handed out cups of piping hot chocolate to families. Inside the Community Center building, children of all ages were offered to sit at a table and prepare holiday arts and crafts prepared by the Henry Waldinger Memorial Library, courtesy of Community Center Manager Sallyann Esposito and her team with the aid of the Valley Stream Youth Council.
By about 7 p.m., the throng of families gathered for the main attraction: the arrival of Saint Nick zooming through the streets on a fire truck. After much anticipation, the blaring noise of fire sirens rattled the park as Mayor Edwin Fare welcomed Saint Nick to stand beside him. Joining them to flip the switch to light up the tree was none other than 98-year-old resident Florence Gunther who was also celebrating her birthday.
The mayor started off the countdown from 10, and after the last second, cheers erupted through the crowd as the tree illuminated, casting a vibrant glow on the smiling faces below. To round off the festive night, families lined up to have their turn to sit with Santa on his sled and pose for pictures.