Merchants in Sunset Park spread holiday cheer once again as the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) hosted its 18th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, November 30 in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 60th Street and Fifth Avenue.
As always, the day included a visit from Santa Claus, live entertainment, free giveaways and more.
Executive Director of the BID Renee Giordano said this year’s event was the group’s biggest yet.
“I thought it was really exciting,” she said. “It seemed we had more kids than ever wanting to see Santa. The lines kept getting longer and longer and they were all having a lot of fun with him. The weather was good this time and there wasn’t a lot of wind like last year. OLPH is so nice to let us take over their sidewalk. Father James Gilmour was there and he was happy with what he saw. The lights look brighter. It seems like a much better tree. The tree looked so nice they didn’t realize it wasn’t real.”
Giordano added that the local nature of the yearly event adds to its charm. “For me, it was nice to see everyone enjoying it and seeing people come back,” she said. “It’s a great tradition and I like the idea that it’s a Sunset Park, homegrown event. We gave a lot of goodie bags out, and every year we put in more stuff.”
The live entertainment added to the festive neighborhood tradition.
“The performers were great. The students from Dewey Junior High School were really excited to be a part of it,” Giordano said. “It was great, especially for junior high school kids.”
First and second graders from P.S. 105, the Brooklyn Chinese American Association After School Program also performed.
“They were just as enthusiastic and even sang some songs, so that was nice,” Giordano added. “They always come with these booklets that are homemade with their songs in it. I asked them if they decorated them and it turned out the whole after school got together and helped out. Even those that weren’t singing took it very seriously.”
Local store Anay’s Boutique hosted a fashion show, and the OLPH choir and Regina Opera performed as well.
The BID also made sure it used social media this year as a tool to inform people of the event. “We did a lot of Facebook Live videos and I could see people commenting,” Giordano said. “One person didn’t know it was happening, saw the video and showed up so it’s nice to see we’re not just posting but reaching people that are enjoying it.”
In the coming weeks, Giordano will retire from her role as executive director of the BID, making this year her last year in charge of the tree lighting, which stirred mixed emotions for the beloved Sunset Park resident.
“It was sad in a way except that next year, I can be in the audience and crowd, bring my grandchildren and not have to worry if the tree or the sound works,” she said. “But it was nice to see the different staff members who work at the BID, everybody wants it to continue. They know what they’re doing.”