Celebrating the holidays

As snow threatened to fall, a crowd assembled at Dunkirk’s City Hall late Friday afternoon to take part in the city’s annual welcome to Christmas.

The countdown began shortly after 6 p.m. as the participants in Friday’s tree lighting ceremony at Dunkirk’s City Hall officially marked the start of the Christmas season.

Mayor Anthony J. Dolce led the crowd in the countdown to the lighting, which wrapped up the afternoon’s events, which began at 4:30 p.m. with a Santa’s workshop on the second floor of City Hall. Meanwhile, Santa was busy on the first floor hearing Christmas wishes from numerous youngsters, including more than a few who seemed to be tongue-tied in the presence of the venerable figure.

With Christmas music playing in the background, children, parents and grandparents used the occasion to enjoy City Hall as something other than a government office building.

Dolce was asked for his thoughts on the event, the second he has hosted as mayor.

“We love doing this, to see everyone come up to do crafts, the tree lighting, Santa’s here, I’m just thrilled by the turnout,” he replied. “I can’t thank Carol Oliveira and Tom Mleczko enough. The inside, the outside of City Hall looks fabulous, they did a wonderful job. Tim Gornikiewicz set up the crafts, the volunteers, and did a great job getting things ready and prepared. So I’m thrilled with the turnout, it makes everything worthwhile.”

Asked if his two sons were taking part, Dolce said one was for sure, and the other was not, as he ran into his dad’s office.

“Niece and nephew here as well partaking, friends of the family, just very excited. It’s a lot of fun,” Dolce added.

Mleczko, who is the city’s assessor, said he was the outside man.

“I take care of the outside, Carol takes care of the inside,” he explained. “The tree is one we planted last year so that one will stay and hopefully be as big as the one by the Stearns Building one of these days.”

Oliveira, the inside decorator, was asked how long she has been decorating City Hall.

“Oh boy, I’ve been working for the city 36 years and I’m not sure if it went all out, but pretty close almost every year,” she replied. “It just keeps getting bigger and better every year I think. For sure it makes the season, it’s festive and I think everybody else likes it too.”

The decorations seem to grow a little each year and Oliveira said this year’s additions were a gift to the city.

“A local business that was going to be getting rid of them. They offered them to us and I said sure,” she explained. “We have them on the outside and the inside. I think it really adds a lot.”

According to Oliveira, the decorations will stay up until the first week of January.

New to the operation this year was Gornikiewicz, who explained his end was setting everything up on the second floor.

“People look forward to this. The mayor talked to Santa and got him to come down here,” he added. “A lot of people put effort into this.”

Prior to the lighting, the crowd filled the apron in front of City Hall as Dolce pulled winning raffle numbers for gift cards. Hot chocolate, coffee and donuts were also provided.

The ceremony ran a little longer than planned but complaints were few and far between.

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