"All they talked about all week was going to see Santa Claus," Machado said. "Every day, it was 'We're going to see Santa, we're going to see Santa.' I work in Lodi, so I had to make sure I got out of work early and got home to take them to the avenue to see Santa. I don't think I would have heard the end of it if I didn't."
Sure enough, Alberto and little Edwin got to see their main man in the red outfit and had their picture taken with him. So did a lot of other eager North Bergen youngsters. In fact, it was estimated that some 7,000 people, young and old, visited Bergenline Avenue last Thursday for the township's 14th annual Winterfest celebration.
Mayor Nicholas Sacco said that the event is part of the township's annual budget and costs approximately $8,000 to hold, which is relatively inexpensive for a well-attended community event. Sacco's political organization, the North Bergen Democratic Organization, also makes a donation to help defray some of the costs.
The nighttime party stretched from 73rd Street and Bergenline Avenue, straight to North Hudson Braddock Park and the North Bergen Free Public Library.
There was a parade featuring members of the town, the high school marching band, and several floats that carried popular children's characters like Dora the Explorer, Spiderman, Batman, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and the Power Rangers.
There were refreshments, music, and concerts from eight different school choral groups. There were also rides, games, and a petting zoo situated inside North Hudson Park.
And of course, there was Santa Claus, talking to the youngsters and posing for more than 500 pictures with them. North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said that he's always happy to produce the Winterfest activities because it brings the entire community together for the holidays.
"It has really developed into a very popular event," Sacco said. "It's our official kick-off to the holiday season. It's phenomenally successful now. The weather was nice. It wasn't as warm as last year [it was a record 72 degrees in 2006], but there was more activity than ever before, so people stayed war
m. The people didn't want to go home. Everyone just wanted to stay there past 9 p.m. It was a nice time." Sacco said the township gives out a host of gifts to the youngsters at the festival, which were quickly claimed this year.
"We had things to give out to the kids, like hats and toys, and we kept running out,"
Sacco said. "We're covering a much larger area now."
Kathy Somick of the Board of Education has coordinated the event since its inception. Many of the people who helped Somick organize the event were volunteers, such as members of the North Bergen Key Club who dressed up in the costumes of famous children's characters and police officers who gave of their time to keep everyone safe.
"We had police officers, teachers, township employees, people from all walks of life who volunteered their time to help out," Sacco said. "It's the epitome of what a community event should be."
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com