ELIZABETH, NJ — More than a hundred people lined up inside the Elizabethport Community Center for a chance to see Santa Claus at the fifth annual 1st Ward tree-lighting ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 13.
“I’m truly blessed and I just want to bless the children,” said 1st Ward Councilman Carlos Torres, who helped arrange the event. “It’s all about the holidays and it’s all about giving back.”
Santa had arrived on a fire truck earlier in the evening to greet the families on one of the coldest nights of the season so far.
The long line to see Santa did not deter families from entering the community center, which was transformed to look like an elf’s workshop.
Each child who took a photo with Santa received a free toy. Toys were donated by 1st Ward resident Ricardo Sosa. This was his first year making the personal donation, he said.
“It was important because I grew up in that community,” Sosa said after the event. “I was born and raised in that community. … That’s where it all started for me and I felt it was the right thing to do.”
The decorations inside the Elizabethport Community Center had a bit of humorous twist this year: Cardboard cutouts of elves depicted the faces of some Elizabeth City Council members and administrators. Free hot chocolate and cookies were also provided.
One family with two young children said it was their third year coming to the tree-lighting ceremony, and that they’d definitely come back again next year.
“I love the event. I love the giving back to the kids, the community, the kids smiling having fun, seeing Santa,” Thomas Solivan, a lifelong Elizabeth resident, said. “That’s what Christmas is about.”
There were tree-lighting events planned for each ward in Elizabeth this year. The 4th Ward held its annual holiday event Dec. 18.