On a drizzly Saturday afternoon and into the early evening, Glen Cove residents showed their enthusiasm for the start of the holiday season by lining up for free carriage rides at Village Square Plaza and participating in the other events, including pictures with Santa Claus, music from the Glen Cove Select Chorale and Jazz Band and the tree lighting and candlelight ceremony that took place at dusk. A large crowd gathered, many huddled under their umbrellas, as the ceremony began, marking 100 years of Glen Cove’s “Tree of Light” in the downtown area. The event was hosted by the Glen Cove Business Improvement District (BID) and the City of Glen Cove.
“Our students have been here with us all day, out in the rain, helping to make this a festive occasion,” said Francine Koehler, executive director of the BID, noting that members of the Glen Cove High School DECA Club also volunteered their time. “I’d also like to thank the Glen Cove Volunteer Fire Department, the Department of Public Works, the police department and auxiliary police and the mayor, city council and all those at city hall for helping put these events together and helping us decorate the downtown.”
This year also marked the unveiling of the city’s Merry Tree Festival: there are various small Christmas trees lining the streets downtown, sponsored and decorated by local businesses, which Koehler said was the “brainchild” of Lisa Travatello, the city’s public relations officer. At the end of the season, the trees will be planted in city parks and five will planted in the city’s first Christmas tree farm.
“We’re hoping this is just the beginning of doing this every year so that we’ll have the streets entirely lined with these great trees that every business decorates in their own style,” said Koehler, pointing out the BID’s tree, decorated with red, white and blue in honor of the armed forces and first responders that “should be recognized during this season.”
She explained that, to encourage shopping locally, the Downtown BID is holding its “Play Downtown” campaign by featuring the “Play Downtown” ad published in local weekly publications, filled with shopping discounts and free gifts offered by participating downtown businesses during the entire month of December. Shoppers can bring the ad to participating businesses and receive a stamp. From Jan. 1 through Jan. 15, 2016, the ads can be returned to the Downtown BID offices at 18 Village Square, Glen Cove and one lucky ad holder will win a $500 lottery.
This year’s Christmas tree, a blue spruce, was donated by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and Mayor Reggie Spinello thanked Father Sean for the donation, as well as members of the department of public works and National Grid for assisting with tree.
“The city’s first outdoor Christmas tree was erected in 1915 at the corner of Highland Road and School Street,” said Spinello. “The local newspaper at the time reported that ‘we are to have one community Christmas tree, a tree under the open sky belonging to the whole village, free for all to enjoy, be rich or poor, young or old, native or foreign born.’”
He said that it took three days for the power company crew to wire the tree and when the tree was lit on Dec. 24, the Glen Cove community gathered to listen to children singing Christmas carols. For the following week, residents came together each night to enjoy the friendship, fellowship and song.
“When the festivities came to a close, the GC Echo said that ‘Glen Cove is a wonderful village, composed of wonderful people,’” said Spinello. “And that holds true today, 100 years later, as we stand before Glen Cove’s Tree of Light.”
He then invited the children to the stage to sing “Jingle Bells” and had them help with the countdown until the tree was lit.