It sure was hyped up, the 'return to tradition' with the holiday tree moving after much political maneuvering and community involvement. But villagers, officials and organizers said it hit every note.
"It was an awesome success!" said Joan Groome, the Executive Director who had been organizing the production for a year.
"It was worth all the effort. It's great to have the tradition back and it was wonderful to see the crowd," she said.
The BF Players sang at Venture Portraits to kick things off. Crowds were so great the portrait studio hit maximum occupancy, forcing well over 50 people to peer into the windows from outside. Resident Sean McCooe, who's been closely involved with the BF Players, said "It was a great way to kick off the holiday season."
Meanwhile, student groups and carolers played songs elsewhere on E. Ridgewood Ave. and businesses had set up stands for cookies, hot cocoa and other goodies.
Paul Vagianos, who's after it had taken a hiatus with the village planting a tree at two years ago, said it was the "whole village's effort that made the night special."
Vagianos received donations from businesses and residents to make the move happen. They raised well over $8,000 and to handle the moving and lighting of the tree; the cost to the village is expected to be less than $900. Vagianos' Christmas Tree Fund was out raising more money to "hold the event in perpetuity," he said. Fireman collected donations.
Huge crowds continued to gather on a cold winter night to watch , , and dazzle crowds with song and dance numbers for the main stage event.
"Art of Motion was great," said resident Jennifer Leggett.
She, along with friend and resident Laurie McCarthy, said they're "two of the biggest fans" of the village tradition. For them, it was the performers that really made it a memorable night.
"They really got us in the holiday spirit," McCarthy added. Others spoke of the overall talent on stage, as young performers sang and danced to the smiles of all.
on after a countdown once the performance had ended. Councilman Paul Aronsohn said the community "really seems like it's coming back to life."
"It was really wonderful having Annie Zusy's family up there," he added.
Businesses were certainly happy with the move as well, they reported. was packed, as was . The restaurants were all packed (particularly Vagianos' restaurant, which had village council members grab some food before the main performance) and others along Broad Street like reported that they had successful nights.
Many of the businesses even further down on E. Ridgewood Avenue said they had good nights as well.
While businesses were teeming with crowds, police reported a quiet night. Ptl. Mark Butler, speaking as a PBA representative, also spoke of the commitment the officers have for the village. They, along with the fire department, volunteered "comp time" for the event.
"It's a pleasure and an honor to serve [the village] tonight and not place any additional financial burden on the village," he said.
"It was a real feel-good evening. We hit all the right points, the stars aligned and it couldn't be better," Chamber of Commerce Scott Lief said.
"And you just can't say enough about the people that performed. Hats off to them."