CALDWELL, NJ - Saturday, December 1st, was the sight of lots of fun and excitement as Santa Claus came to town to light the Christmas Tree and gather with area children afterwards at the fire house. The West Caldwell-Caldwell Recreation Department, under the direction of Gabe DiMasi, worked alongside the Caldwell Volunteer Fire Department to put together a really lively occasion.
The fun started at 4:30pm when DJ Joe Garamella announced that he had just gotten word that Santa had landed at the Essex County airport; the Fire Department was en route to pick him up and he would soon be coming to the Caldwell Green. Soon after arriving in Caldwell, Santa pulled out of the fire station on a fire truck, led by another truck completely covered in white lights. The trucks went down Westville Avenue and over to Bloomfield Avenue. Along Bloomfield Avenue, Santa enjoyed the parade as he waved to shoppers and families.
Waiting for him on the Town Green were over 100 people made up of ages young and old. They were gathered around the unlit tree, applauding song after song performed by about 50 singers from the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell under the direction of Rev. Barbara Piercy and her husband, Noel Piercy. Barbara and Noel are well known around the West Essex area for their dynamic music program at the church.
The singers were from four of First Presbyterian’s choirs:
* Chancel Choir: Made up of adults
* Westminster Choir: For teens in grade 8 through 12; this is the same group that performs the church musicals
* Pilgrim Choir: Made up of children in grades 6 and 7
* Chi-Rho Choir: For the children in grades 3 through 5
The Piercy’s full music program at First Presbyterian includes the Genesis Choir made up of children in grades 1 and 2, and the Cherub Choir for children ages 3 to 5, as well as 3 Handbell Choirs for ages 10 through adult. On special occasions, the music is also supplemented with string and brass ensembles.
Noel Piercy commented, “We all had a lot of fun! I led the adult choir tonight while my wife Barbara played piano and directed our other 3 choirs. It was great to be able to sing secular as well as religious music. I'm so happy there were so many people who attended!"
In between choirs, West Caldwell resident, Joe Garamella furnished holiday music for the occasion. Joe is best known around this area by his business name DJ Joe, as he often provides music at weddings, birthday parties, schools gatherings and festivals.
Garamella was enjoying himself when he commented, "The Tree Lighting in Caldwell always sets the tone for the Holiday season, it's a great community gathering year after year."
Exactly at 5pm, all eyes were on Santa as he pulled up in his glowing Christmas fire truck.
Santa went right over to the tree and with a roaring “Ho, Ho, Ho” the beautiful tree lit up with 1000’s of multi-colored Christmas Lights. He and his friends Rudolph and Frosty soon joined Mayor Ann Dassing and the younger choirs on the risers to lead the crowd in many familiar Christmas Carols like Jingle Bells and Santa is Coming to Town. Everyone sounded great and Santa’s voice was SPECTACULAR!
Mayor Dassing enthused, “I loved having the kids and the choir members up there with Santa, this is what it is all about! I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!”
Gathered at the tree with her two children was Ann Marie Nieradka of Caldwell. She commented, "I thought they did a great job, especially with Santa's entrance! My 4 years-old son, and 2 years-old daughter really loved all of it!"
After all of the enjoyment around the tree, the crowd went down the path to the Caldwell Volunteer Fire Department where hot chocolate and cookies awaited them. Soon, the fire house became filled with people, and Santa arrived to the rousing applause of his happy fans. As Santa took his place on a bright red sleigh, the line to meet Santa extended outside the firehouse and down to Roseland Avenue.
Santa rang sleigh bells as he welcomed the kids. As the children cautiously crept up to his lap, there were some tears but mostly lots of laughter and whispered requests for secret Christmas wishes. Santa beamed with joy and let the kids know that he would tell his Elves the list that each child reported.
West Caldwell’s Kimberly Ward and her husband Frank Mitchell were there drinking hot chocolate and enjoying the festivities. Kimberly expressed, “We came in and were the first to see Santa, and we gave him a big hug!”
Set out on about 10 tables and lined up against the wall were a huge assortment of prizes to be awarded through the department’s Annual Holiday Tricky Tray, from stocking stuffers, large under the tree gifts, wreaths, as well as the trees themselves.
Tamara Bross, an Administrative Assistant for the Borough of Caldwell, has overseen the Tree Lighting festivities for 17 years. She’s also an Honorary Firefighter and sits on their Board. Bross explained the origins of the Tricky Tray: “This event originally began under Fire Chief Tony Grenci, when it was conducted through CAMP, and over the years it has really grown. Half of the proceeds always go to the Caldwell Fire Department Children's Education Fund which provides academic scholarships and the other half goes to the Fire Department itself.”
The holiday spirit was in the air as people placed their tickets in the baskets. As she saw the room fill up with people happily participating in the Tricky Tray, Bross commented, “I’m really thankful that people came out to our biggest fundraiser of the year. This is such a great way to start the Christmas season!”
In charge of selling the 50/50’s was former Fire Chief of the Nutley Fire Department, Mark Guiliano. Guiliano now lives in Caldwell and was recruited to the Caldwell Volunteer Fire Department. “I just joined two years ago, and I’m very happy to be here,” commented the fireman.
After all of their hard work and preparation, the members of the fire department members looked on, pleased with the response from the public.
Before he left to go back out into the cold and start on his long ride up to the North Pole, Santa commented “Caldwell is one of my favorite towns to visit! I will see all the girls and boys on Christmas Eve. Ho, Ho, Ho!”
For more information:
West Caldwell-Caldwell Recreation Department
Director: Gabe DiMasi
5 Fairfield Avenue
West Caldwell, NJ 07006
Caldwell Volunteer Fire Department
30 Roseland Avenue
Caldwell, NJ 07006