NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - After having eaten their share of turkey and stuffing their closets with bargains from Black Friday shopping, there was only one thing left for residents of New Providence to do this Thanksgiving weekend: welcome Santa to town!

Hundreds of families gathered in the center of town on Friday to celebrate the 39th Annual New Providence Christmas Walk. While the community awaited Santa’s arrival, they were reminded of the true spirit of Christmas at the New Providence Presbyterian Church, where children could pet live animals (including “Fidget” the cow, bunnies, goats and sheep), create ornaments, and enjoy hot apple cider and cookies.

Every business located on South Street and Springfield Avenue joined in the festivities, offering holiday refreshments and activities. Many shop owners personally stood outside their establishments and handed out candy canes; the parents of the New Providence Pioneer Band members rallied together to sell delicious, hot pretzels as a fundraiser; and at State Farm Insurance, children were invited to visit with a live teddy bear.

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The Grammarie, a new community coffeehouse featuring Dean’s Beans beverages and pastries from Woodland Bakery, was packed with families celebrating the evening together.

“The Christmas Walk is my favorite event in New Providence, hands down,” said Ali Soloman, a teacher at New Providence High School who now owns the bustling coffeehouse.

A live band called “Santa and his Elves” (featuring Kenny Cadmus) entertained the crowds outside McGrath’s Paint and Hardware store with rocking renditions of Christmas classics and freshly popped corn. Band member Tom Barry said, “This is such a great thing to do for the community. We’ve been a part of this event for years, and it always creates a sense of togetherness.”

As it grew dark, community members packed onto South Street in order to catch a glimpse of the jolly legend himself. The talented New Providence High School Pioneer Band signaled Santa’s arrival with a sound that could fill a sports stadium, ringing in the Christmas season with a bang. The New Providence Fire Department revved its fire engine and flashed its spotlight on the roof of The Provident Bank, as the crowd murmured in anticipation.

One child in the crowd, Brendan Dowd, seemed concerned. “He’s going to be way up there! Oh! How’s he going to get down? Santa – on the roof? That can’t be good,” he worried. Just then, Santa appeared, laughing and waving as he flew over the cheering crowds on the fire ladder. Children and adults alike waved back and danced along with the beat of the drums as they gazed in awe at the magical man of the hour. Before long, it was time for Santa to begin his parade back to the North Pole, but not before he made sure every girl and boy had a candy cane.

The evening concluded with a live Nativity re-enactment at the Presbyterian Church, where families were again reminded that Christmas is not just about the rock star in the red suit, but about giving, being thankful, and sharing the holidays with loved ones.

The New Providence Christmas Walk is sponsored by the New Providence Downtown Improvement District, the New Providence Fire Department and the New Providence High School Pioneer Band.