The cold weather, hot chocolate and hundreds of residents made for a perfect evening in Bellmore Village on Friday night, as the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores hosted its 14th annual Christmas Tree Lighting and Holiday Extravaganza.
Parents and kids filled the village in full holiday spirit and were met with a real treat: horse and carriage rides, hot chocolate, candy apples, cupcakes, Christmas lights and caroling.
In attendance were Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla, Hempstead Town Councilman Gary Hudes, Hempstead Receiver of Taxes Donald Clavin Jr. – who was referred to as "the Grinch" by Hudes – and Nassau County Legis. Dave Denenberg, D-Merrick.
"No one welcomes in the holiday season any better than Bellmore does," Denenberg said. "You have the old-time feel, horse and buggy rides, hot chocolate, the tree lighting, caroling and the community together – what could be better than that."
As family after family got their horse and carriage ride up and down Bedford Avenue, Billy Polara and Kevin MacKinnon, owners of the Days Gone Bye candy and toy store, stood on the street and sold some of the best treats their store had to offer. The duo also noticed the "old-time" feel that the extravaganza brought along with it.
"Tonight's event is unbelievable. I love it," Polara said. "I wish we had a few snowflakes here tonight, and a little carousel too, bring it back to the old ice skating days. … It's like an old-fashioned village. We love it!"
Also on the streets were the Bellmore Lions Club and Kiwanis Club, who were selling cupcakes and hot chocolate. Part of the proceeds of their sales went to charity.
"Part of it is a public service and we give back to the community," Lions Club President Nina Lanci said. "We enjoy doing it. We get to meet people in the community, and we're going to help a local family as a result tonight."
Preceding the lighting of the tree were Christmas carolers from the CenterPoint Church, as well as the Dinkelmeyer and Gunther Schools Small Vocal Ensembles, which sang such holiday tunes as "O Holy Night" and everyone's favorite, "Jingle Bells."
"It's a great event," said Diane Severino, the events chairperson of the Chamber. "This is such a wonderful community event. It really draws, as you can see, not only people from Bellmore, but from all over the area."
Chamber President Ron Mare was equally happy with the way the extravaganza had gone.
"It's a beautiful evening," he said, "everybody came out. We got a great crowd. It's a beautiful tree. As always, we have a lot of fun. The carolers were fun. You can't ask any better weather. This is old-fashioned Christmas right here in Bellmore Village."
The great turnout and efforts by everyone involved helped turn Bellmore Village into a proverbial winter wonderland, and kicked off the holiday season with a blizzard of community spirit.
"They love the horse and carriage, they love the trolley and the wagons, and it's just a special night," Severino said. "It brings the people together. I think it's wonderful and we get to light our beautiful Christmas tree."
Editor's Note: Pictures from the tree lighting will appear in Sunday's In Photos column.