Despite the bone-chilling cold in the air, the magic of ringing in of yet another festive holiday season would not be denied to the many local residents who bundled up to experience the Syosset Woodbury Chamber of Commerce’s 17th annual Holiday Lighting Spectacular.
Frank Urso, chamber founder and past president, said that this event was a way of bringing together friends, neighbors and family during the kickoff of the holidays with the local merchants.
“We do this every year because we want businesses to give back to the community,” he said. “The community supports the businesses, and we think there’s nothing like getting together with everybody around the holiday time…it’s our Holiday Lighting Spectacular, as we call it, and we invite everyone to come down and enjoy it.”
Taking place at Astoria Plaza on Jackson Avenue, the Holiday Lighting Spectacular is a multi-denominational magical mish-mash of song, dance, good cheer and—of course—an appearance by jolly old Santa Claus himself after the lighting of the Plaza’s holiday tree.
With his sleigh temporarily out of commission, Saint Nick was transported to the Holiday Spectacular courtesy of one of the hook and ladder trucks of the Syosset Fire Department. After wading through a mob of well-wishers, Santa took a seat beneath the gleaming tree to pose for pictures with excited kids, each whispering the contents of their expansive holiday wish lists in his waiting ear.
Urso also noted that a Menorah would be lit in Astoria Plaza at the start of Hanukkah, which began on Tuesday, Dec. 16.
When the weather holds up, Urso said, the event typically attracts upwards of 500 people. Despite the extreme cold that Sunday evening, attendance certainly appeared to nearly hit that mark. However, the spirits of those who braved the chill were warmed by the many young men and women who put on an unforgettable show for them on the stage of the Town of Oyster Bay’s mobile Showmobile.
“We put on what you’d consider to be a Broadway show for the public…you’ll be amazed when you see it,” Urso said. “All the talent we have are local talent from the high school and local dance schools…we enjoy it and the community enjoys it…this is an event, every year, for the community.”
Featured performers included members of the North Shore Performing Arts Center, the iSchool of Music and Art, the Martha Merideth School of Dance, and individual vocal numbers by local teens Rachel Zelin, Zachary Hausman, Nicole Rampanelli and Gabrielle Sklar.
In addition, the Syosset High School football team was honored on the stage for an especially noteworthy and groundbreaking achievement, Urso said.
“This year, we’re recognizing the team for winning the 2014 Long Island Championship, which is the first time that’s been done in over 40 years,” he said. “We’re going to put them on stage and introduce them, and give them a little recognition with the community…they are truly champions. So, that’s a big plus.”
Plus, a holiday lighting would never be complete without appearances by local dignitaries, especially Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, who enthusiastically wished the shivering masses good tidings and cheer.
“We are truly a family in Oyster Bay,” he said. “Please accept our best wishes for a very merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, and the happiest and healthiest of New Years.”
To help revelers keep their energy (and, more importantly, their body temperature) up, several local businesses donated food and treats such as pizza, bagels, candy, cookies and plenty of hot chocolate. Among the participating businesses were Stop and Shop, Bagel Master and Mario’s Pizzeria.
Local resident Kirsten Fitzgerald and her family were bundled up with blankets in the first row of chairs laid out before the Showmobile. She said a little numbness in the extremities brought on by the frigid weather wasn’t enough to keep her kids from what has become an annual tradition for the family.
“We always love to come here to the Chamber’s Holiday Lighting…it always marks the official start of the Christmas season for us,” she said. “The music and dance numbers are always wonderful, and the visit from Santa is always a highlight. It just make you forget about all the bd things going on in the world and concentrate on what’s important…family, and being good to one another.”