Annual Christmas tradition kicks off Saturday
A Christmas tradition that began in the 1940s will light up a boulevard in Columbia County for another holiday season.
“It’s Berwick. And that's the key," said Dr. John DeFinnis. He’s been involved in the annual event since the 1970s.
The Berwick Christmas Boulevard opens Saturday for the 77th year.
"It's hard to believe that it has propagated for 77 years because this type of project takes a lot of volunteerism," said DeFinnis.
On Thursday, ahead of opening night, volunteers in bright yellow safety vests hustled in and out of Jingle Hall on 11th Avenue in the borough. The Berwick Boulevard Association took over the event and the facility from the Berwick Jaycees, who started the Christmas celebration. Arthur Wark and Maynard Johnson founded the display in 1946.
Inside of Jingle Hall are seven decades worth of decorations. The boulevard is a divided highway with plots in the middle. The volunteers strung lights on trees and made last minute adjustments to the 14 plots of decorations.
The thing about the Berwick Boulevard isn’t necessarily that its mid-street plots are decorated for Christmas, but rather the type of decoration.
"We're noted for our movable figures," said DeFinnis. "We been to New York and purchase figures and we've had others that we refurbished.”
Certain plots stay the same every year.
"The first plot is John's plot," said Patsy Bowers. "And then the second plot is the Nativity always, the third plot is, is my plot, which is the angels.”
The fourth plot has memory boards. There’s an Old Fashioned Christmas and a military plot. The last plot always celebrates the New Year. Local organizations and businesses decorate in between.
Each year Christmas Boulevard is dedicated to someone — this year it’s to the late Thomas Kowalchick.
"Just a great guy," said DeFinnis. "He donated to community an awful lot."
Christmas Boulevard is open from Saturday, Dec. 2, until Dec. 30. Cars can drive through the sites from 6 to 10 p.m. It’s free but donations are welcome.