Fort Lee’s annual holiday tree lighting ceremony will take place Thursday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at the . This year’s holiday celebration promises to be a true community event and one to rival , when attendance was estimated at more than 400 people who braved frigid temperatures and turned out for hot chocolate and other treats, music, “snow,” a visit from Santa and, of course, the lighting of Fort Lee’s holiday tree.
The brainchild of Fort Lee attorney Marc Macri, who plans the annual event with a small group that also includes Mike Maresca of the Fort Lee DPW, Cheryl Weston of the community center, Borough Administrator Peggy Thomas and borough technician Sam Ghali, the outdoor tree lighting ceremony is now in its third year.
“I’ve been to a few other towns, and it’s a nice community event,” Macri said of taking a lead role in planning the now annual event. “And there’s no reason that we shouldn’t have one.”
Robert and David Caffaso of are donating the 25-foot tree, which was ordered through , which, in turn, provided the tree at a reduced rate, according to Macri.
“I want to give these guys a lot of credit,” he said. “One guy’s discounting; one guy’s paying for it. It’s a community event.”
Others from the community contributing in big ways include Maresca, who’s building the stage that will look like a sleigh, according to Macri, and putting up the tree stand, and president Rich Radoian, who is putting up signs around town and getting flyers to the schools.
“He’s an important contributor,” Macri said of Radoian.
Ghali, whom Macri described as “a tech genius” and a “lighting genius,” will be handling all the lighting for the ceremony.
“He does computers and lighting, and he works the stages when we have events at the community center,” Macri said.
Macri also lauded Acting Superintendent of Schools, Steven Engravalle, and band conductor, Harry Welte, for helping with what would be the main event, if not for the actual lighting of the tree.
“They were instrumental in getting me the high school marching band’s drum line and color guard, because apparently there’s something else going on that night with the band involved,” Macri said. “The marching band season is over, but those two guys were able to get me enough kids—20 to 30 kids. We couldn’t do it without them.”
The drum line and color guard are going to come down a portion of Anderson Avenue accompanying a fire truck carrying a very special visitor, Macri said.
But before that, he said, “There’s going to be a countdown. They’re going to light up the community center, light up the tree, and then after [Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich] gives some words, [the drum line and color guard] will bring in Santa.”
Macri’s own law office, Sokolich and Macri, is paying for a DJ—one change from last year, when the event featured a live band. And another local attorney, Raffi Khorozian, is also contributing; his office is paying for the banners that Radoian is putting up around town.
“I didn’t get everybody involved, but everyone I asked for help, no one said no,” Macri said.
Weston said the event will be similar to last year with the exception of the DJ and the drum line ushering in Santa.
“We’re having the snow again, which I loved,” Weston said. “That, to me, was the best part. We have this fake snow machine thing, and it was so great.”
She added that there will also be a photographer this year to take pictures of the kids with Santa.
“If they want a picture with Santa, we’ll give it to them for free, but they’ll have to pick it up the next day,” Weston said.
The Caffaso family is not only donating the tree, they’re also serving hot chocolate, donuts and cookies, “like they always do,” according to Macri.
“Not only do they donate the food and the tree, but they even bring their employees at their cost to serve everybody; they’re good guys,” he said. “We’ve got a great community center. We’ve got a very, very active mayor. I’ve known him a long time; he’s my law partner. But honestly, he’s very, very active. He never says no to something that benefits the community.”
Dec. 8 Mayor and Council Executive Session Time Change
The borough also announced that the Fort Lee Mayor and Council executive session on Thursday has been changed from 7 to 5 p.m. in advance of the holiday tree lighting.
The open portion of the meeting will begin at about—or at least “no earlier than”—5:30 p.m. Thursday and will be held in second-floor conference room 201.