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tree lighting

By Michael Scro

Port Jefferson Business Improvement District held its 2nd annual Christmas Tree Lighting on Wednesday, Nov. 22, at the intersection of Broadway and East Broadway, where a crowd of resident families gathered to enjoy live music, dancing and a visit from Santa Claus, who joined in with the tree lighting.

The crowd was treated to dance routines from the Shine Dance Company, based in East Setauket, live holiday music from Erik McCormack, who played the famous tunes on his acoustic guitar, and hot chocolate to keep everyone warm.

The evening culminated in the arrival of Santa Claus, who sat in a large upright chair beside the tree before its official lighting.

Village of Port Jefferson Mayor Lauren Sheprow led a countdown to the tree’s lighting and thanked everyone in attendance.

“This is a truly special event the village looks forward to every year,” she said.

Santa then greeted the children and handed out candy canes while the tree shined brightly for the rest of the evening.

— Photos by Michael Scro/Media Origin

Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Join the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport for their annual tree lighting on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 6:30 p.m. This year the tree will be placed near the main entrance on the lawn in front of the ancient columns that overlook Northport Bay. Complimentary sweet treats, hot cocoa and mulled cider will be served and there will be a special visit from Santa and other surprises!

This year’s tree was donated by Lois Luhrs of St. James. “It was about three feet high when we planted it in 1993,” she said, “and it grew a couple feet each year.” When Vanderbilt staff members cut it down, the tree was 60 feet high. It was trimmed to 30 feet for installation on the estate grounds.

Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, Executive Director of the Vanderbilt, said, “We’re very grateful to Lois Luhrs for donating this magnificent tree for the museum’s holiday festivities. It will add a bit of magic to the estate.”

Special thanks to Teachers Federal Credit Union for their contribution toward the event.

The Vanderbilt is collaborating with Long Island Cares on its annual Holiday Food Drive. The Museum will have a Long Island Cares collection bin stationed near the tree for anyone who wants to donate. After this event, the bin will be in the lobby of the Reichert Planetarium through Sunday, December 3

In addition, the Vanderbilt is collaborating with BAE Systems, which funds some Vanderbilt Museum programs, on its annual Holiday Toy Drive for the Family Service League. Visitors may donate new, unwrapped toys in a collection bin in the Reichert Planetarium lobby through December 10.

Admission to the tree lighting is free. Capacity is limited to 400. Registration is required by visiting www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or click here.

The Miller Place community twinkled brightly on Saturday, Dec. 10, during a tree lighting ceremony held at the Aliano Shopping Center on Route 25A.

The event was well attended by community members, public officials and even pets. Fun and joy went all around. A tall, multicolored tree served as the centerpiece for the evening. 

Dozens of community members, performers, business leaders and public officials gathered at the Train Car Park in Port Jefferson Station Dec. 8, continuing a lasting holiday custom.

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce has hosted this event for decades, perennially reuniting the various facets of the community amid festive cheer. Guests were greeted with hot chocolate under a tent, with some chamber members tabling inside.

The stars of the event, Santa and Mrs. Claus, arrived in a stylish fire rescue vehicle supplied by the Terryville Fire Department. Along with them was chamber president Jen Dzvonar, New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook).

Santa and Mrs. Claus spent quality time with the children, sitting for photographs and taking requests for Christmas. Vocalists from the School of Rock performed Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs. Dancers from the Port Jefferson Station-based Backstage Studio of Dance jived to the musical beats of several tunes.

“We try to rally the entire community for a great community event,” Dzvonar said. She responded to the sizable turnout and talented performers by saying, “I think it’s so heartwarming. It’s like a true holiday festival, celebratory and inviting.”

The laughter and fun of the evening were just another positive development in a string of forward momentum for the community this year. Kornreich described the spectacle as exemplifying the area’s distinctiveness and charm.

“By my reckoning, I think this is reason number 74 for why Port Jeff Station is one of the best places to live in Suffolk County,” he said. “This town is changing so quickly, and there are just so many fun things going on here all the time,” adding, “I’m just really happy to be here with everyone from the community on yet another happy occasion in our new park.”

Englebright outlined some of the historical contexts behind this event. The assemblyman regarded the gradual development of the area and the Train Car Park as the product of decades of joint efforts between community groups, governmental entities and engaged residents.

“To see all of the young people here, and Santa and Mrs. Claus … it is showing us all the direction that this holiday is meant to be in,” the assemblyman said. “It’s very heartening to see the very talented kids, the dancers and the fire department. The whole community is here, and it’s just amazing.”

Gwenn Capodieci is the executive director of the Backstage dance studio. She said her dance groups have performed during this event for the past three years and frequently coordinate with PJSTCC. For her, the evening is a unique opportunity for the dancers to perform before their peers and community members.

“After all, this is a performing art,” she said. “Performing is a big part of it, so to get an opportunity to show that is really great.” 

Nicole Terlizzo, artistic director and teacher at the dance studio, said the performances were the product of two months of preparation, with the rehearsals ranging from jazz techniques to hip-hop, tap, ballet and others.

“The girls practiced really hard and really came together,” Terlizzo said. “They have a lot of fun doing it, and it’s a fun way to get them out of the studio and in front of the community.”

Paul Perrone, vice president of PJSTCC, summed up why the chamber continues this tradition annually: “It gives people an opportunity to get out of their house and enjoy the community park,” he said. “It helps people feel that Comsewogue — Port Jefferson Station/Terryville — has something to offer everybody.”

Joan Nickeson, the chamber’s community liaison, offered her take as well, citing the tree lighting event as an annual tradition that highlights the area’s continued growth and support.

“It’s an annual Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce tradition, and we’re so fortunate to have a great Santa, support from our electeds, residents and the business community,” she said.

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The St. James Chamber of Commerce hosted a community Christmas Tree Lighting celebration at Deepwells Farm County Park.

Originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 3, it had to be moved to Sunday due to rain.

The event included pictures with Santa Claus, crafts, performances, hot cocoa and snacks. Among the performers were the Dogwood Fourth Grade Chorus and the Smithtown High School East Whisperettes kickline team.

Santa stopped by Stony Brook Dec. 6. Photo by Rita J. Egan

While the Ward Melville Heritage Organization had to hold its annual Christmas festival and tree lighting virtually this year Dec. 6, a few of the board members and their friends gathered on the Village Green at the Stony Brook Village Center, not just to see the festive lights, but also for an announcement.

Visitors to the Village Green take a photo in front of the lit spruce. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman, said the Village Green in the center would be renamed in honor of Jennie Melville, the mother of philanthropist Ward Melville, founder and planner of Stony Brook Village Center. Rugen said she was the one with the idea to change the then “kind of down-at-the-heels Schooner town” into what it is today, including the two-acre Village Green, even though she didn’t live to see it. 

“It’s been used now for 80 years, much more so this year with COVID,” Rugen said. “People have been able to come down and have a ball game or a card game or a sunset, whatever their little hearts desired.”

The WMHO chairman said despite the Village Green being used more than usual this past year, visitors have been respectful of the grounds.

“The trustees and the staff of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization worked very hard to keep it beautiful, and you have cooperated very well,” he said.

Rugen said after seeing so many residents enjoying the green, the board of trustees decided to name it the Jennie Melville Village Green, and in the spring, they plan to install a plaque with the new name and some history about both Melville and the open space.

Also on hand was Chris Damianos, chairman of the board and CEO of Damianos Realty Group, one of the sponsors of the tree lighting, and his family. The Norway Spruce that was lit to commemorate the holiday season Sunday is dedicated to his mother Virginia, who passed away in 2009.

“She was a strong woman,” he said. “This tree has too grown strong, tall and resolute.”

He called it a symbol of hope.

“Another symbol of hope and joy is Santa,” he said, adding that the man in red was on his way.

To the delight of attendees, Santa, who had just spent a few hours speaking to local children via Zoom in a virtual event organized by WMHO, stopped by to help light the Stony Brook Village Center tree.

During the Zoom call with Santa, children were able to request holiday presents. A mailbox has also been set up in front of the Stony Brook Post Office to send him letters this season.

In past years, hundreds of residents would line up by the post office to have their children take photos with Santa as part of WMHO’s Holiday Festival, which the pandemic made impossible this year.

The past two years the festival also featured the Legends and Spies Puppets Procession led by a New Orleans-style brass band. The puppets paid homage to former notable Three Village residents such as Ward Melville and his wife, Dorothy.

This year WMHO continues its Holiday Tree Competition. Throughout the shopping center visitors will find decorated trees.

Ballots can be obtained from businesses throughout Stony Brook village, and shoppers can vote for their favorite tree until Dec. 21.

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Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce celebrates its tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 7. Photos by Joan Nickeson

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce opened the holiday season Dec. 7 with its annual tree-lighting ceremony outside the chamber-owned train car at the corner of Routes 347 and 112.

Chamber leaders were joined by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), not to mention Santa Claus himself. Members of the PJ Station-based School of Rock and Backstage Studio of Dance were available for live entertainment. Refreshments were served by Buttercup’s Dairy Store and Colonial Coffee.

The next night, Dec. 8, the chamber started its annual Polar Express Experience nights, allowing young people to watch “The Polar Express” inside the chamber’s train car, where they were served a candy cane, cookies and hot cocoa.

The chamber is hosting additional Polar Express experiences Saturday and Sunday through December.

‘Tis the season for tree lightings and holiday festivals.

Stony Brook Village and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization hosted the 37th annual Holiday Festival and Holiday Tree Competition Dec. 4 at the Stony Brook Village Center.