BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Holiday Spirit soared in Berkeley Heights as Santa drew a rock star crowd when he arrived by fire truck to the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony and fireworks display by Garden State Fireworks followed by the first ever Downtown Winter Walk Saturday evening. 

The combined effort of the Berkeley Heights Downtown Business Community in conjunction with the Berkeley Heights Special Events Committee presented the evening that brought the community to downtown to kick off the holiday season.

A record crowd of over 2,000 people filtered through downtown Berkeley Heights via Peppertown Park and Springfield Avenue to visit with the participating businesses that offered a variety of entertainment spots along the route while serving the "walkers" hot chocolate, cookies, hot pretzels, popcorn, 7-Eleven sandwiches, Sherman BBQ and even a wine tasting at Berkeley Wine [for adults 21+]. 

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The Gov. Livingston Cheerleaders handed out "Winter Walk" bags that contained the map of the evening's offerings along with free raffle tickets for people to use along the walk to enter drawings to win prizes from businesses. Each participating business was marked by balloons.

The Winter Walk accomplished its mission of bringing a vibrant community to its downtown.

"We hope that this is a first of many Winter Walks," said Cheri Pertesis, event co-chair and owner of Anything Floral. "All of the businesses got together and we hope the community enjoyed what we put together." 

The Berkeley Heights Downtown Business Community saw the need to be seen in a more positive light. "We plan to bridge the gap between the businesses and the community by hosting events like the Winter Walk," said Pertesis.

Behind the support of  Mayor Bob Woodruff and the Town Council, Police Department and Fire Department --  the small committee of businesses set out to get the business community involved.  Over 50 businesses participated in the walk with many contributing to sponsor the "live reindeer", horse drawn wagon, police coverage, along with the many in-kind donations of lights, staging, signs, printing and music. Click Here for full list of participants and sponsors. 

"Tonight was a great way to begin the holiday season," said Jeanmarie Cranston from Delicious Heights. "It was such a great sight to see that the effort that so many people put into planning this event was so well received by the town.  What a great community event. We look forward to next year!"

Now that we know the Winter Walk was well received by the community, plans are already underway for next year, said Pertesis. "Additional measures will be made to improve upon this successful event,"  she added. 

"This is going to be a long standing tradition in Berkeley Heights," said Council President Jeanne Kingsley. "The crowd is fantastic -- it is what makes us special."

Related article: Santa Arrives to Berkeley Heights to Ring in the Holiday Season