Irvington hosts annual Tree-lighting Spectacular

Photo by Chris Sykes
Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department Director Donald Malloy, center, stands with a famous cast of holiday season characters, including Santa Claus, second from left, Elmo, left, and Cookie Monster, second from right, of the PBS-TV ‘Sesame Street’ children’s show, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, right, on Wednesday, Dec. 6, during the township’s annual Tree-lighting Spectacular in Civic Square.

IRVINGTON, NJ — The township held its annual Tree-lighting Spectacular in Civic Square on Wednesday, Dec. 6, and Mayor Tony Vauss and Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department Director Donald Malloy said it was an example of the entire Irvington community coming together.

“What an amazing event. We were able to put smiles on young people’s faces by giving them gifts,” said Vauss on Monday, Dec. 11, “as we unveiled our fire truck, dressed up in holiday cheer for all the children and residents to see. We gave out over 1,000 gifts to children in the community, for free. We lit up the front of Town Hall better than ever. We had two of the school choirs singing on the steps of City Hall and had our fire truck lit up, with Santa Claus delivering gifts to the children of Irvington.”

Don’s Diner donated all the cookies, hot chocolate and other treats at the event and Sgt. Sheyla Cepeda and the other members of the Public Safety Department’s Police and Fire divisions brought famous children’s television characters, including Elmo and Cookie Monster from “Sesame Street,” to life in all their fuzzy, brightly colored glory. This year, the township also partnered with Omar Bilal Beasley and the Friends of Irvington Park, the Garden State Grand Lodge of Freemasons and others, including Eric Dixon, to ensure there were enough toys to go around.

“This has been phenomenal this year. One of our bigger ones again,” said Malloy on Wednesday, Dec. 6. “We did it again. We had great participation from our schools. A lot of our school kids came out and a lot of our schoolteachers came out. We also had new decorations this year on the fire truck and we got some mixed decorations for our township event, for the stuff that we displayed around the trees of our township. We added some color this year, as well as our white lighting, the LED lighting, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Absolutely wonderful.”

But Malloy said the best part of the spectacular was the number of toys given away this year.

“We got a lot of gifts here for our kids. I mean, we brought a lot of gifts — over 1,200 gifts — and we have a lot of people to thank from that, too, not only from the Department of Recreation. We also had some Toys for Tots. We also had Most Worshipful Master Omar Bilal (Beasley) and the Garden State Grand Lodge, and Four Blocks.”

The son of former Municipal Council President, Essex County Freeholder and Team Irvington social and political organization founder D. Bilal Beasley, who died unexpectedly in 2015, Omar Bilal Beasley said partnering with Vauss, Malloy and the township to spread holiday cheer is a family tradition he’s more than happy to continue.

Usually Dixon and the Beasley’s individual organizations hold their own holiday toy drives and giveaways, separate from the township event sponsored in part by the IPD, IFD, local business community, and administration. However, this year Dixon and Beasley joined forces with the town to hold a single, united event due to the “economy.”

“This is a legacy. My father started it and we’re just trying to continue it … and we just figured, this year, we would team up with the township, with the Recreation Department and Donald Malloy, Eric Dixon, a good friend of mine, and his civic association,” said Beasley on Wednesday, Dec. 6. “They said: ‘Listen, man with the things that’s going on in the world today, with the finances being the way they are, let’s pool our resources together and make this thing a successful event.’ And here we are today.”

Malloy said they were at the event because of good people, such as Beasley and the Garden State Grand Lodge freemasons, the Irvington Police and Fire divisions, municipal employees and Dixon.

“ Our kids are very important to us, our future is very important to us and that’s why we all come out and volunteer, to give our time and whatever else that we can,” said Dixon on Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Malloy said he was thankful for all the support at the annual tree-lighting, adding this kind of cooperation between disparate charitable entities is proof that the motto of Vauss and Team Irvington Strong, “One team one dream,” has been fully embraced in Irvington.

“Here’s what my father used to tell me a long time ago, before he passed away: ‘It is better that we pool our resources together. We can do greater things.’ Together we can rise and stand, right?” Malloy said Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Beasley agreed, saying, “Listen, man, it’s about community. We all come from the same tree, the same root. We drink out the same cup and eat out the same cereal bowl. One family.”