WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange kicked off the holiday season over the weekend with multiple events that spanned three days.

"The Holiday Open House combined with the Christmas Tree Lighting is one of my favorite days each year as mayor,” said Mayor Robert Parisi. “In addition to official welcoming the holiday season, it gives us a chance to meet many residents and to celebrate important traditions."

On Saturday, hundreds attended Holiday Open House events that included a pancake breakfast with Santa Clause at Washington Elementary School, a holiday show at the Community House gymnasium with special performances and a chat with township historian Joe Fagan, who also served as the guide for free trolley tours of Downtown West Orange and Llewyln Park.

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“We are so happy that it was such a great weather day and we were able to spend a lot of time downtown visiting our schools and businesses,” said Megan Brill, executive director of the Downtown West Orange Alliance. “We had several hundred people attend breakfast, the craft show and the trolley rides. This is a pretty expensive event for us to hold because a lot of it ends up being free or at a reduced price. We could not have afforded to do this without our sponsor, Regal Bank, and the generosity of Paul Cito and The Community House.”

Brill noted that many volunteers and businesses, including Select Auto Repair and Benji’s Taqueria Mexican Grill and the West Orange High School ROTC Cadets, helped to make the event a success.

Children were also treated to a free stuffed animal workshop at the West Orange Public Library in the afternoon, sponsored by TAPinto West Orange, Bederson LLP and Friends of the West Orange Library. Families lined up to participate in this event, where children chose from several different creatures—including a snowman, a gingerbread man, a dog or a reindeer—to stuff and create a birth certificate for.

Councilwomen Susan McCartney and Michelle Casalino were among the narrators on the free trolley tours, which began at the community house, went up Main Street, into Llwellyn Park, passing the Thomas Edison home, then exited the park and went along Main Street to Harrison Avenue. The guides provided historical information about the township, its residents and its visitors.

“I thoroughly enjoy narrating the Holiday Open House Trolley Tours,” said McCartney. “Each year, attendance has successfully grown, bringing pride and the historical significance of Llewelyn Park, the Thomas Edison National Historical Park and so many sites along our Main Street to so many.”

Councilman Jerry Guarino, who also narrated trolley tours, said the Holiday Open House is among his favorite township events. He especially enjoyed being able to interact with so many residents throughout the day.

“It's a very busy day that starts with preparation several months ago, and with the help of so many volunteers and business owners, we get to create a great day downtown,” said Guarino. “There are so many people to thank for creating this special day for our township, but most importantly we could not have done it without the appearance of Santa Clause. Seeing the kids’ faces and expressions as they see Santa Clause live and in person is priceless, and I hope every resident takes advantage of this opportunity next year.”

Thanks to Parisi’s annual Toy Drive held on Friday, toys will be wrapped and delivered to needy families, thanks to the Mayor’s Sunshine Fund and Social Services Department. A holiday-themed performance from the West Orange High School Jazz Band entertained the crowd.

The Old Fashioned Christmas Tree Lighting was held on Sunday due to Saturday evening’s rain, and was accompanied by performances from the Vienna School of Music and Unique Performance Dance. The West Orange High School Junior Air Force ROTC was also on hand at the event to help with the merriment, handing out hot chocolate, cookies, manning the inflatable snow globe and petting zoo, and helping with the children’s trolley ride featuring holiday characters.