Hundreds of people gathered at the Jack Alter Fort Lee Community Center Thursday evening for the borough’s third annual holiday tree lighting celebration.
The event was complete with a DJ, hot chocolate and other treats, fake snow, a visit from Santa and, of course, the lighting of Fort Lee’s roughly 25-foot holiday tree.
“Every time we do something like this, there’s a lot of volunteers, and there’s a lot of people that help us,” Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich said, addressing the many children and families gathered in front of the stage built to look like a sleigh. “And without volunteers, and without people helping the community, a lot of this is not possible.”
The tree was donated by Robert and David Caffaso of Cafasso’s Fairway Market and purchased from Metropolitan Plant Exchange, which provided it at a reduced rate, according to Fort Lee attorney and event organizer Marc Macri.
Sokolich said Macri, who happens to be the mayor’s law partner, “is like a brother and a best friend to me.”
“And I’m going to tell you that every day for the last month, he’s been working on making sure this night is special for you,” Sokolich said, going on to thank the members of the Borough Council, who joined him onstage, “for letting us do these crazy things every once in a while.”
Then with the help of some local kids, Sokolich started a countdown, which culminated in a chain reaction-like lighting that started at the community center building and ended with the illumination of the tree.
Macri plans the annual event with a small group that also includes Mike Maresca of the Fort Lee DPW, who built the special stage and set up the tree; Cheryl Weston of the community center; Borough Administrator Peggy Thomas and borough technician Sam Ghali, who handled some pretty sophisticated lighting.
After Sokolich’s remarks and the lighting of the community center and tree, a drum line and color guard from Fort Lee High School marched down a portion of Anderson Avenue accompanying a fire truck carrying Santa. Kids then had a chance to have their picture taken with the “Jolly Old Elf” for free; parents just have to come back to pick up the pictures Monday.
The Caffaso family not only donated the tree, they also served hot chocolate, donuts and cookies—as has also become a tradition—bringing their employees at their own cost to serve the many Fort Lee holiday revelers.