UNION, N.J. — Nobody was mistaking a Union parking lot for an Olympic rink, but the artificial ice rink outside Town Hall still was the most popular attraction at the municipality’s annual Winter Wonderland and Tree Lighting Ceremony on Dec. 6 and 7.
“We’re excited to transform Town Hall into a winter wonderland again and bring back one of Union’s most cherished events,” Mayor Michele Delifort said in a statement. “The smiles, the laughter and the display of togetherness are what make the holidays in Union truly special.”
The synthetic ice rink of interlocking panels, which looks somewhat like a jigsaw puzzle, was the centerpiece of the perennial event that also included a DJ, food vendors and holiday-themed games. Bright lights turned the usually dimly lit parking lot into a nighttime festival, and booming music added to the atmosphere.
DJ Danny Teleposky said that Winter Wonderland had expanded from last year, which was plagued by inclement weather. This year, Teleposky received a bigger stage. But the skating rink, first provided at the event in 2017, still seemed to be the main attraction, with Teleposky providing its soundtrack.
Children ice skated with the guidance of their parents, and many people wandered across the parking lot and in front of Town Hall. Several volunteers who helped give out ice skates lined the artificial ice skating rink.
“I grew up here. I want to give back to the community I grew up in. It’s good to combine the worlds we grew up in to now,” said Kevin Woodridge, a program coordinator with the Department of Recreation.
The Department of Public Works takes up to a week to set up the lighting outside the Municipal Building. The process begins by first blowing leaves, then erecting the lights, ground display and wreaths. The easiest part of the setup is assembling the tents, which take about five minutes. Every year, the Holiday Tree Lighting Committee incorporates something new into Winter Wonderland. This year there were toy soldiers on stilts as well as other roaming characters to entertain attendees.
The two-day event began the evening of Friday, Dec. 6 and resumed the next afternoon with horse-drawn carriage rides, an ice-carving demonstration and a live Nativity scene, and was capped off with the lighting of the town tree.
In addition to family-friendly activities for residents, the Winter Wonderland provides several volunteering opportunities and opportunities for local food vendors.
Tom Leonard, owner and founder of Rusty Nuts LLC, roasted peanuts in the trunk of a 1960 Harley Davidson Servi-Car. With his business based in Elizabeth, he maintained a tent at Winter Wonderland, accompanied by his father, Tom Leonard Sr.
Another vendor, Kaimu Suggs, operated Maltese Munchies tent behind the ice rink. Suggs is an Irvington firefighter who donates a percentage of his proceeds to families affected by a fire, and he takes his business to many events.
Recreation Department Superintendent Robert Cowper, who kept the weekend festivities running smoothly, told LocalSource, “We hope families will feel a sense of pride and community as they witness the tree lighting. We believe this is a great way for the town to kick off the holiday season.”