BAYONNE, NJ - Santa Claus was checking his list a bit early on November 26 with the first of a series of holiday events taking place between now and Christmas in Bayonne.

While other tree lightings will take place in early December, the pre-Thanksgiving event  hosted by the city’s Urban Enterprise Zone and Special Improvement District each year marks the official beginning of the holiday season with the arrival of Santa Claus  and the Christmas tree lighting on Broadway.

For Terrence Malloy, the city’s business administrator, and executive director of the UEZ, this was his 39th year celebrating this event.

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“Back in 1980, it was run by the Bayonne Merchants’ Association up by the McDonald’s,” Malloy said.

Since then, the event has been held by different groups in different locations along Broadway including the Town Center Management Corporation, which the SID and UEZ took over about a decade ago.

The UEZ was originally part of an innovative state program that allowed a percentage of sales tax money to remain in the business district in order to help support local downtown businesses such as those along Broadway. Originally not considered for a UEZ designation, then Assemblyman Joseph Doria successfully lobbied Trenton to have it included. For years, this helped maintain a vibrant Broadway business corridor.

In 2009, then Gov. Christopher Christie decided to use these funds to help balance the state budget, and so Bayonne has been forced to become more creative in finding ways to finance its annual event – often relying on local sponsors to help keep the event alive.

This year these sponsors included Christopher Piechocki, KW City Life JC, the Bayonne Teachers Association, and Luze Auto.

Hundreds of kids gathered along with their parent in front of Kopinski Park to enjoy performances by the All Saints Catholic Academy Choir and the Bayonne High School Jazz Ensemble while waiting for the arrival of Santa.

The tree lighting marked Santa’s arrival, as he waved from the cab of a fire truck, and the city’s streetlights were shining brightly, turning Broadway into a corridor of holiday illumination. Bayonne teachers handed out cups of hot chocolate and other drinks. Other sponsors gave away additional treats. A trackless train ferried kids up and down a three-block stretch of Broadway.

This is the first of a series of events scheduled throughout Bayonne. 

On Thursday, Dec 5, another tree lighting will take place hosted by the Uptown Merchants from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Dr. David G. Morris Park on Broadway near 47th Street. Sponsored by Councilman Gary LaPelusa, the event will feature the Horace Mann Ensemble, the Horace Mann School Choir, and the Bayonne High School Bee Sharps.

On Saturday, Dec. 7, the Philly Pretzel Factory at 713 Broadway will host Festive Philly Pretzel Day from 1:00 p.m. to 3 p.m.

On Dec. 9, the city will hold its official holiday tree and menorah lighting a 4:45 p.m. in Fitzpatrick Park on Avenue C between 25th and 26th streets.

On Dec. 14, Historic Bergen Point Christmas Village will take place from 10:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. and will include a tree lighting at 6:00 p.m. Santa will also be there at Trinity Parish, 141 Broadway, near 5th Street.

Also, on Dec. 14, Pizza Master, 532 Broadway, will host free lunch with Santa for kids from noon until 1 p.m. and again 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are required at 201-88-6357.

Finally, on Dec. 21, the UEZ and SID will host free horse and buggy rides on Church Lane near East 23rd Street from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. There will be free hot chocolate for children at the Carvel.

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