Despite the clouds and wind last Saturday, Santa and a few determined volunteers brought Christmas cheer to Oyster Bay. The sixth annual Holiday Market and Tree Lighting offered hundreds of people, coming from Mill Neck, Manhattan and points in between, the chance to enjoy the season and support the hamlet.
Stretching the length of Audrey Avenue, the event turned Oyster Bay into a Christmas village and bazaar. Whether it was the main event — the speeches, the lighting of the tree and Santa’s arrival — or the parents’ lounge, the ice rink, the dance performances or the holiday market stands, this year’s event was enjoyed by many.
Much of its success was owing to Dawn Riley, executive director of Oakcliff Sailing and the tree-lighting coordinator. Along with her sailors, who formed the core of the volunteers, Riley made sure the market would happen, rain or shine.
“We have fire pits, warming stations and all of the stores open, spilling their wares onto the streets for a festive setting,” she said. “At Oakcliff Sailing we know how to deal with weather, so we have foul-weather gear and umbrellas if people need them.”
With temperatures hovering in the 40s, market stalls were set up before noon. Small businesses from Oyster Bay and a few nearby communities were not dissuaded by the chill, having weathered a global pandemic. Local fixtures including the Oyster Bay Brewing Company, Chrison & Bellina and Not Just Art were on hand.
“It’s something to look forward to every year,” said James Economou, the brewery’s stall manager. “You start to get a little more of that community feeling. It’s good to see everyone get back out, walk up and down the streets, enjoying the holidays.”
The organizers also offered events to entertain children and help parents relax. A horse-drawn carriage gave families a chance to ride around town. And there was live entertainment, courtesy of Gone Dancing, which performed twice, to thunderous applause. Attendees appeared to especially enjoy a routine by 3- and 5-year-olds set to “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” The ice rink, run by the Main Street Association, was a big hit with children. And in the parents’ lounge, near the rink, moms and dads caught up with friends.
“I really enjoy the fact that they made this a little larger compared to years past,” Adam Delvalle, of Oyster Bay, said. “Before, it was just one block long. Now it covers all of Audrey. Getting to walk around the town, it’s fantastic.”
Meredith Maus, executive director of the Oyster Bay Main Street Association, said that enlarging the event helped with social distancing, giving people a chance to spread out. “We did it at the last minute last year, but this year we decided, why not keep doing it?” Maus said. “It’s the best way to get people to actually visit the stores, and we get to spread the cheer further than just the center of the downtown.”
John Canning, the commissioner of Oyster Bay’s Human Resources Department, treated the crowd to his annual reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Then the Christmas tree was lit.
Although his reindeer couldn’t make the trip, Santa was escorted in style by the Atlantic Steamer Fire Company truck, which was decorated with holiday lights and blared its horn as it headed to the grandstand. Then, with the Grinch’s help, Santa threw presents to the large crowd of excited children.