It was a winter wonderland in Sunset Park.
Despite frigid temperatures, the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District hosted its annual tree lighting ceremony on Thurs., Nov. 23 in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 60th Street and Fifth Avenue, complete with entertainment, pictures with Santa Claus, and gifts, all for free.
Executive Director for the BID David Estrada — part of the event for the first time under that title — called it a major success.
“Aside from being freezing, it was fantastic,” he said. “The proof for me was when I saw the clown on stage. It was freezing cold yet these kids were so zeroed in on the entertainment.”
He was grateful to the church for hosting the beloved event.
“It’s a 20-year tradition and I’m just thankful that the tradition can continue through their generosity,” Estrada said.
In addition, Estrada praised the local talent. “We have a marching band, a magician, a clown, a jazz combo,” he noted, adding “The combination of the talent and then being able to carry on the tradition was great.”
When Saint Nick arrived, thanks to planning by the BID’s own Cathy Williams, he was inside the BID’s historic trolley
“It became Santa’s workshop and when the kids wanted to come and take their photo with Santa, instead of having to stand outside shivering the whole time, they had a nice, warm trolley,” Estrada said. “It was a fun place to go in, take their photo with him and get a free gift.”
Local businesses also were critical to the success of the event.
“A couple of the sponsors like Cricket Wireless did giveaways and they raffled off a phone,” Estrada said. “Part of what makes me happy is that the BID isn’t looking outside the neighborhood to support these kinds of events. Local merchants see value in sustaining these traditions and that’s another warm part of the holiday season. They see that it’s worth investing in their own neighborhood to have events that people really care about.”
Other sponsors included Amalgamated Bank, Anay’s Boutique Inc. and Johnny’s Pizzeria.
The tradition of the tree lighting caters to residents old and new.
“I have to believe a lot of people walking by might have been seeing the tree lighting for the very first time with their little children,” said Estrada. “It’s a really positive event. Whether you immigrated or relocated to Sunset Park a year ago or you’ve been living here all of your life, it’s like a touchstone.”
Free trolley rides will also take place on Sat., Dec. 15, Sun., Dec. 16 and Sat. Dec. 17. For more information, visit www.sunsetparkbid.org.