Dec. 2, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
The first ever Skillman Avenue Holiday Festival will be taking place this Saturday.
The Skillman Project, a collaboration of businesses located on Skillman Avenue, is hosting the festival to bring the community together and celebrate the new holiday lights strung across the avenue.
The new lights are a significant upgrade from the past when snowflakes illuminated the street.
The Skillman Project is closing the Avenue down between 51st Street and 43rd Street, and will have activities lining the business corridor. The cross streets will remain open to allow for cross traffic.
The festival will run from 4 to 8 p.m. with food, drink, music and activities offered by local businesses and community groups.
“We hope this gives people a chance to come hang out, get in to the holiday spirit and see their neighbors,” said Jean Clancy, one of the organizers and a co-owner of Claret Wine Bar. “This is such an amazing neighborhood and a diverse community, and it will be a great opportunity to come out and enjoy the neighborhood.”
The centerpiece of the event will be the Christmas tree lighting by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer at 6 p.m. at Sunnyside Reformed Church at 48th Street where a stage will be set up.
Many activities will line the Avenue throughout the afternoon and evening. Local choirs, carolers, artists, dancers and marching bands will perform before the tree ceremony.
After the Christmas tree lighting, children will be able to get their picture taken with Santa at a special grotto set up at 49th Street and Skillman.
There will be a professional photographer on hand to take photos, which will then be posted to the Skillman Project Facebook page after the event.
Beginning at 4 p.m. there will be a DJ playing music, food and drink specials at the local bars and restaurants, a wreath making workshop and various arts exhibits.
Throughout the night there will also be performances from local theater, dance and music groups, caroling by the girl scouts and PS 150 school kids, and a holiday raffle that will be drawn at 7:30 with about 35 prizes, including tickets to the Nutcracker and Carnegie Hall, along with prizes from local businesses.
In addition to providing a fun holiday outing, Clancy said the businesses also want to give back to the community.
Most of the businesses lining Skillman will have collection boxes for Toys For Tots. Residents are encouraged to bring unwrapped gifts and put them in one of the boxes. The toys will then be distributed to children in need.
“It is really a community effort to bring something spectacular to the neighborhood and brighten up the street,” Clancy said, adding that funding for the event had come from many different community organizations and stores, Van Bramer’s office, and the Chamber of Commerce.
“We want to make Skillman somewhere everyone wants to go out and have a drink or a bite to eat, to go shopping, and really just get in to spirit of the holidays,” Clancy said.
For more information on the event, visit the event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/289506878116833/