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Plenty of Spirit At Tree Lighting

Hundreds Gather in Kennedy Park for Santa, Dancers, Singing Scouts

Just as electricity coursed through the colored lights lining the branches of the tall tree in Kennedy Park, energy surged through the crowd gathered for the annual ceremony Friday evening.

Several hundred Hicksville residents and friends packed into the tiny park to welcome Santa Claus and the Christmas season.

“It’s a small town,” Karen Dwyer said, noticing a crowd larger than last year’s event.

Dwyer, past president of the Hicksville Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, was one of several volunteers serving hot chocolate again. This year they were also cutting pieces of a sheet cake provided by the Hicksville Community Council.

Even the opening to the 18-year-old ceremony, according to the Hicksville-Jericho Rotary Club, was anything but calm. President JoEllen Cole called out to the crowd if they were ready to start; the masses roared in return.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto, Nassau County Legislator Rose Marie Walker and other public officials made brief public appearances, but community groups were the stars of the show.

Two dozen Girl Scouts and Brownies from Woodland Elementary School crowded onto the portable stage to sing Jingle Bells, Frosty the Snowman and Marshmallow World. Mikayla Bunker, 7, described the experience as “exciting.”

Chaos may be the best word to describe what ensued when Cole teasingly told them “a special guest” was coming to visit. Loud screams of excitement and movement filled the stage until Scout leaders tried to get them singing again.

Sure enough, Santa Claus arrived on an antique fire truck. His appearance on stage was strictly business; he welcomed the crowd and quickly began the countdown to light the large tree. The lights flickered to life well before zero, but the crowd still erupted into applause.

Santa exited stage left and took up shop underneath the tree, waiting to speak with all the girls and boys.

Everyone who didn’t rush off to meet the red-suited holiday icon was treated to Long Island Acts singing and dancers from Ella Marie School of Dancing as they floated about the stage. The performers ranged from girls aged 10-11 wearing red dresses and hats while dancing to Run, Run Rudolph to young women aged 14-15 wearing long white dresses to dance to Believe from the film Polar Express. Even the school’s teachers got into the act, donning white skirts and fur hats to Marshmallow World at the end.

Ilana Shapiro, who danced to Bette Middler’s Cool Yule, said the temperatures falling toward freezing were worse than the crowds.

“I wasn’t nervous because I’ve done rehearsals which have a lot more people,” Shapiro, 11, said. “It was fun.”