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Bright Christmas: 1,500 people gather on Fifth Avenue for Park Slope tree lighting

Family fun: John Soster and Susan Russell Smith brought their son Will to ring in the holidays with a tree-lighting ceremony in Park Slope.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It was a pine way to spend an evening.

A massive crowd gathered on Fifth Avenue to inaugurate this year’s holiday season with a tree-lighting ceremony just two days after Thanksgiving, but folks were more than happy to forget about their in-laws and embrace their extended Park Slope family, according to one local.

“It was a very sweet and wonderful outpouring of community,” said Park Slope resident Susan Fox, who dressed as a snow lady for the Nov. 25 event. “Anybody that was there could feel they were part of something beyond just their family, which is sometimes the focus of Thanksgiving.”

Get lit: Some 1,500 people gathered along Fifth Avenue in Park Slope on Saturday to witness organizers flip the switch on this 22-foot pine.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

About 1,500 people turned out by the time organizers flipped the switch on the 22-foot pine at around 6:40 pm, which the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District had shipped fresh from Vermont to J.J. Byrne Park near Fourth Street in order to ring in the holidays, according to Mark Caserta, who heads the business-advocacy group.

Leading up to the lighting, locals were treated to farm fresh apple cider — and apple-cider donuts — courtesy of Down to Earth Markets, which will return to the green space on Sundays through Dec. 24 to hawk produce culled from nearby farms.

Bubble Dad — a Park Slope guy who entertains at kids’ parties by blowing really big bubbles — brought his act to the bash, along with the team from Puppetry Arts, a local theater company that produced a holiday-themed show featuring its number-one star, Tuffy Tiger.

Ho Ho: Santa and one of his elves made the trip down from the North Pole to ring in the holidays with a tree-lighting ceremony in Park Slope.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Musical acts included the Urban Choir Project, which sang Christmas songs and — to shake things up — the Foo Fighters’ tune “Learn to Fly,” along with some famed children’s music songwriters from the neighborhood, including Emilia Robinson, Suzi Shelton, and Katie Ha Ha Ha, who played for the crowd.

And of course Santa showed up along with one of his elven helpers, and the pair greeted kids in the first of numerous appearances the North Pole residents are expected to make in the nabe from now until Christmas.

The business improvement district’s honchos organized the event to coincide with Small Business Saturday — a holiday invented by American Express in 2010 — in order to promote the commercial thoroughfare’s more than 500 mom-and-pop shops, although scheduling the tree lighting in tandem with the credit-card company’s gimmick came with another added benefit, Caserta said.

Photo by Stefano Giovannini

“It’s basically the first tree lighting in the city,” the business advocate said.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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