The assembled crowd included about half of the Union Hill High School Singers, conducted by Director Alice Faila.
The dulcet tones of "Joy to the World" filled the icy corridor of Palisade Avenue as people stamped their feet and rubbed their hands in a futile effort to keep warm. As the choir sang, smiles appeared on the faces of everyone from the city commissioners to the police officers present. For a moment, it seemed, the frigid temperature was forgotten as hearts were warmed.
Union City Mayor Brian P. Stack addressed the crowd and asked the them to remember "those less fortunate" during the holidays. Said Stack, "This Christmas, see it in your heart to help out. Help your local charities. Giving is better than receiving."
Commissioner Christopher Irrizary said, "Let's think of those that need our help. We will all benefit from the result."
Stack and Irrizary were referring to the fire that occurred on Friday, Dec. 6 on Bergenline Avenue. The blaze left eight families without shelter, adding to an already high total for Union City. That blaze is still under investigation.
Commissioner Tilo Rivas made sure that the crowd remembered our soldiers currently overseas. Rivas said, "Let's remember that our country is at war. Our thoughts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters overseas. Let's live in peace."
Woodrow Wilson Grammar School student Allison Trujillo-Strong was introduced and sang a rousing rendition of "The Christmas Song" ("Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"). Thunderous applause greeted the youngster at the completion of the song.
Mayor Stack then introduced "Santa Claus," who, according to city spokesperson Gayle Kaufman, was actually DPW worker Charlie Basso. "Santa Claus" appeared to be having some "beard adherence" difficulties and, according to Kaufman, rejected any and all suggestions of "gluing it on." Nonetheless, he performed his duties flawlessly, assisting Mayor Stack in lighting the City Hall Christmas tree for another year.
At this point, the thoroughly frozen crowd moved across the street to the relative warmth of the Palisades Plaza Senior Housing Building for apple cider and cookies.
Said Stack in a lobby interview, "Events like this are good to unite the city. You saw how many people of different backgrounds came out today. Things like this really do bring people together. The fires show that the city can come together."
Stack added, "We are so fortunate that we have so many different ethnic groups that get along. I am the most fortunate mayor in the world."