Santa Claus is coming to town!
Assemblyman Michael Benedetto is once again teaming up with the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, the St. Benedict Choir, and numerous other community organizations to sponsor an annual celebration of the Christmas spirit with a tree lighting in Throggs Neck.
The community’s annual Christmas Tree lighting will be at Derosa O’Boyle Triangle (across from the Throggs Neck Library) at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 1.
After the lighting, young people will be treated to presents and can have their picture taken with Santa Claus, said organizer John Cerini of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association.
“The event has grown tremendously in the past few years and there are a lot of children and a lot of gifts,” said Assemblyman Benedetto’s chief-of-staff Ben Randazzo. “It is one of the highlights of the holiday season in the Throggs Neck area, and it has been for a long time.”
Benedetto has taken the lead in supplying a portable stage for Santa Claus to give out gifts, provide the Christmas tree and the lights, and logistical support.
The Throggs Neck Merchants Association bought 1,200 toys for the event, said Cerini, with any left over to be donated to the Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club in Throggs Neck.
The event first started seven or eight years ago, with the Menna family, formerly of Menna Meats, taking the lead in organizing it, said Cerini.
It has grown from a small gathering of about 75 people the first year to 200-300 the second year, he said. This year, flyers have been sent out to all of the schools in the Throggs Neck area, and Cerini estimates that about 1,000 of the community’s 7,000 children will likely show.
They will be treated not only to a choir performance, but also to free hot chocolate, candy canes, and cookies while supplies last, he said. There will also be a DJ playing holiday songs and singer Gene DiNapoli.
“As a resident of Throggs Neck, I personally know the Mennas and I am glad they got it started,” said Cerini. “And I am gratified to carry out the tradition of it.”
He said Christmas tree celebration is one of the things the merchants do every year to spread holiday cheer, along with Christmas lights over East Tremont Avenue from Dudley to Miles avenues.
Cerini said he remembers growing up in Throggs Neck and the joy he felt going to Chase Bank, which had Santa Claus there every year in those days. That memory motivates him to plan and help organize this tree-lighting event.
“I happen to love Christmas,” he said. “It is the time of year that reminds me of childhood when there were no stresses. Even though it is stressful planning this event, I know a thousand children from Throggs Neck are going to be excited.
A group of volunteers will help Benedetto and the merchants carry off the event, he said, adding that Sister Anne Kelly of St. Benedict’s choir “is a tremendous asset to the community and her work also helps brighten the holiday season.”