NUTLEY, NJ - Holiday music filled the Nutley Park Oval as thousands of residents gathered around the field’s fence in anticipation for their favorite man in a red suit on Friday afternoon, Nov. 29. Sure enough, the classic red and blue chopper circled above the Oval carrying Santa and Mrs. Claus. The Clauses made a safe landing in the middle of the football field and greeted everyone.
The 58th annual event sponsored by the Nutley Chamber of Commerce is always held the day after Thanksgiving or the following Saturday morning. According to Dan Leon, president of Nutley Chamber of Commerce, about 4,500 children and their families came out to the Oval on the sunny, dry but chilly afternoon to meet the Clauses.
DJ Rob Frannicola of Ultimate Entertainment revved up the children waiting to greet the jolly old elf with holiday and dance music. Performers included the Nutley Junior Raiders Third and Fifth Grade Cheerleading Squads, Nutley School of Music, and Ellis Dance Studio’s classes 1 and 2. Borderline Bike also gave rides around the oval and the children were met by Winnie the Pooh, Tiger, Piglet, Frosty, the Grinch, Elmo, and Belle and the Beast. Two balloon makers also entertained the anxious children.
The first 500 children received a goody bag filled with coloring books, crayons, kids drinking cups, a beach ball, sunglasses, lollipops, and coupons for services in town for the parents, courtesy of Nutley Chamber of Commerce members. Free hot cocoa was also available to keep everyone warm on such a bitterly cold day. Each child received a candy cane after visiting with the Clauses.
Mayor Joseph P. Scarpelli also gave 500 children a packet containing four letters that the children can write to Kris Kringle. The township set up a special red mailbox, located outside the Oval entrance on Chestnut Street, for children to mail those letters directly to the North Pole.
The age-old tradition of Santa arriving in Nutley by a whirlybird is an agreement the township made with the North Pole said Barbara Chiarieri, Nutley Chamber officer manager. She said they give the reindeer time off to rest up for the big day, only a few weeks away. “We just have to make sure Santa is available and OK to come to Nutley. We make special arrangements with the elves to fly him in from the North Pole,” said Chiarieri. Leon added, “It is a traditional event that we have the Nutley families to showcase Santa and to remind all the children to be in the best behavior so Santa doesn’t skip over Nutley.”
Santa and Mrs. Claus have arrived in Nutley by helicopter about 90 percent of the time since 1961. Santa was grounded a short time after 9/11 and was able to visit the Nutley children in a special red convertible for those few years. “This is a great Nutley tradition that has been going on even when I was a kid. I thank the Nutley Chamber of Commerce for keeping it going. I don’t think anywhere else in America does Santa Claus arrive to welcome in the holiday season the way Nutley does,” said Scarpelli.
Tapinto Nutley asked some of the children what they wished Santa would bring them, classics such as Legos and Barbies have again made the list. Gianna Scibatti, 5, wants a Barbie dream house and her sister Lucia, 7, asked for an iPhone. Dana Dombrowski, 3, wants a baby doll, while her sister Leah, 6, wants a Barbie camper. Emily Van Soelen, 8, is requesting a Nintendo Switch while her cousin, Alexa Tempro, 5, wants a Barbie. Nicholas Pereira, 8, asked for a Buzz Lightyear robot. An L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Fashion Doll is on six-year-old Alyssa Sikora’s list, while her brother, William, 10 wants Lego. Landon Gallo, 4, wants the Flash superhero action figure.
Nutley’s annual Holiday Christmas Tree and Menorah Lighting will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. Activities kick-off inside John Walker Middle School and around the Nutley Park Oval. Franklin Avenue will be closed between Chestnut and New streets.
Following the tree lighting, Vincent United Methodist Church will host their annual presentation of the Living Nativity every 20 minutes, from 7 to 8 p.m. The free presentation consists of an Angel, shepherds, the three Wise Men, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and live animals – including sheep, goats and donkeys.
Refreshments will be served at both locations. Nutley will again be roasting Chestnuts in front of the middle school.
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