North Bergen celebrated the 19th annual Winterfest on Thursday, Nov. 29, beginning with a parade that started at 85th and Bergenline. This year the community enjoyed trains, inflatable fun houses, toilet bowl go-carts, a wrecking ball, pony rides, a petting zoo in James Braddock park, and face painting. Santa and Mrs. Claus were also a part of the festivities.
“Winterfest is North Bergen’s largest annual community celebration and it’s an amazing opportunity to see our town come together and celebrate the holidays,” said Mayor Nicholas Sacco. “We enjoy holding it very much.”
A long tradition
Winterfest has been a North Bergen tradition since first held in 1993.
“Winterfest was originally envisioned as a way to help local businesses by bringing the community together and spur the local economy and also as a community event,” said town spokesperson Phil Swibinski.
Mayor Sacco, who was in his first term when the fest began, and school board officer manager Katherine Somick, continue to be involved in the Winterfest. According to Swibinski, Somick has been the driving force behind Winterfest’s expansion. During the first two years, it was held on Saturday, but in its third year it was changed permanently to Thursday.
The event has grown from four blocks to 10 blocks of Bergenline Avenue, along with parts of Braddock Park – adding more characters, rides, games, and attractions yearly. Some additions this year were the Wrecking Ball attraction and the racing cars.
“The popularity of the Winterfest is definitely increasing, as it has become such a tradition that it is a part of North Bergen now.” – Mayor Nicholas Sacco
According to Swibinski, new characters are added yearly based on their current popularity with children along with the Christmas ones.
“The Winterfest seems to grow every year and the turnout this year may have been the highest ever,” said Swibinski. “It could not happen without the many volunteers who donate their time each year to make the event happen. Hundreds of township and Board of Education employees volunteered this year, including 70 police officers and representatives from nearly every township department and agency.”
He added, “It’s also a wonderful example of volunteerism throughout the town and I would like to thank everyone who generously donated their time, especially Kathy Somick who once again coordinated the event and had a direct hand in making it so great.”
Funding for the event comes from many different sources, including the North Bergen Democratic Municipal Committee, the township, and Mayor Sacco, who paid a photographer to take free pictures of kids with Santa Claus.
Supporting local businesses
According to Swibinski, local businesses on Bergenline Avenue donated and offered their food at discounted prices such as La Sorrentina, Brick Oven Pizza, Tapas de Espana, and many others. Two businesses, Atlantic Carpets and Glamour Beauty, allowed their facilities to be used in support of the Winterfest.
Atlantic Carpets hosted the pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus while Glamour Beauty Parlor had face painting at $1 which went to a North Bergen High School group that sends cookies to the troops overseas.
“The Winterfest is truly a partnership between the local government, businesses and the residents in a wonderful event every year,” said Swibinski.
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org