NUTLEY, NJ - Festive music filled Franklin Avenue as Nutleyites gathered to see the annual Holiday Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting in the Oval Sunday evening, Dec. 4 hosted by Mayor Joseph Scarpelli and the board of commissioners.
Entertainment began at 5:30 p.m. in the John H. Walker Middle School auditorium with the children’s concert under the direction of James Riley, coordinator of fine and performing arts. Performances included the All Elementary School Choir consisting of students from the fourth through sixth grades, JWMS Concert Choir, JWMS Jazz Band, Nutley High School Choralettes, NHS Chamber Singers and NHS Brass Ensemble.
“About 300 students will be singing and performing,” said Riley in a pre-interview with TAPinto. “This is one of our signature events in Nutley and a great opportunity to get together and celebrate the holidays,” he added.
Activities outside included horse and buggy rides around the Oval along Franklin Avenue and Chestnut Street, a mini-train ride on Franklin Avenue and face painting. Santa Claus and his reindeer were inside the school for photos. Other character appearances included a giant toy soldier and Frozen characters.
Nutley Volunteer firefighters and the Nutley Volunteer Emergency Rescue Squad even joined in on the festivities with their fire engine decorated all in holiday lights complete with a lit up Grinch dressed as Santa stationed on the front.
Hot cider and free roasted chestnuts were available for residents to enjoy as well as to keep warm on the cool evening while awaiting the lighting. The Friends of Nutley Singers and the Nutley Music Boosters Association sold popcorn and pretzels and the senior class raised funds by selling hot cocoa.
“This is the 12th year roasting the chestnuts,” stated Board of Education member Fred Scalera. “It’s always a great family event, with the band and entertainment, great Nutley experience. Where else can you get a real horse and carriage ride and roasted chestnuts?” he asked.
At approximately 6:30 p.m. the high school brass ensemble assembled on the steps of the middle school grabbing the attention of the crowd with more holiday music. The Mayor along with commissioners Alphonse Petracco and Mauro Tucci took the stage near 7 p.m. to announce the moment everyone was waiting for, the lighting of the donated 45-foot Norway spruce.
The mayor took the microphone and thanked everyone especially all the Township departments and the BOE for putting the event together. He then introduced Rabbi David Greenstein from Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Montclair.
Greenstein welcomed everyone to the festival of lights and gave an explanation of what light represents. “One of the beautiful things about light is that it discriminates against no one,” he stated. “Light keeps growing and spreading around us,” continued Greenstein. The rabbi then provided a blessing in Hebrew.
The Rev. Pamela Bakal of Grace Episcopal Church in Nutley then took the floor and offered a blessing. “The tree is spectacular and from especially from the Kelly Family. A good mood is generated by the community of Nutley; caring and compassionate people,” Bakal told TAPinto.
Scarpelli shared the story of how Nutley obtained their Christmas tree. He claimed finding a tree was a challenge this year. “My wife locked me out of my house and I noticed a beautiful Norway spruce across the street,” he said with a chuckle. He then thanked the Kellys- Robert and Betty, for their donation.
The countdown began and within seconds the lever was pulled by Petracco and Tucci, a loud applause sounded from the crowd as the Oval glowed with colorful lights.
The mayor asked the residents to visit the annual Living Nativity across the street complete with a donkey and sheep provided by Vincent United Methodist Church.
The actors portraying the Nativity scene were played by church parishioners. Mary and Joseph were Nick and Justine Groeger. The role of Jesus was given to a real baby, Jack Groeger, for the first time to Rev. David LeDuc’s knowledge. The Three Wise Men were John Olsen, Jim Traficante and Gene Carlson and the shepherds were Emily Feraco, 7, Natalie Feraco, 9, Evan Blanchard, 6 and Matthew Blanchard, 9. The role of the angel was shared between two girls Danielle Goode, 9 and Nicole Rae Hilario, 5.
The living Nativity has been a part of the church for many years. Although no exact date could be pinpointed it started about 30 years ago and has been a tradition ever since.
“We decided to do it with the tree lighting [many years ago] and it worked really well; makes it a community feel. It’s a gift to the community and people really appreciate it,” stated LeDuc.
LeDuc explained when the tree lights go on in the Oval he can see people cutting across the lawn in crowds to come see the manager.
The tree will be lit every night from now until the end of the month for all to enjoy.