Hurricane Sandy Yields Modest Winter Wonderland in Hamilton
The winds of Hurricane Sandy may have subsided. The trees may have already fallen. But in Hamilton Township – like in so many other towns across the state – the effects of Hurricane Sandy still remain.
Since the end of the storm, Township Public Works crews have begun the long and demanding process of picking up the pieces – no easy task for a community of nearly 40 square miles in size.
Not only has Hamilton’s Road Division crews worked overtime to begin clearing trees, branches, leaves and debris from along the hundreds of miles of curbside across the community – but other employees who would normally not be involved – like Hamilton’s Park Maintenance and Building and Grounds crews, all within the town’s Public Works Department.
Not only has the magnitude of debris forced officials to revise plans for the annual fall, curbside leaf recycling program – it has also prevented these crews from preparing for Hamilton’s annual Winter Wonderland celebration.
Normally, Hamilton’s Park Maintenance and Building and Grounds crews would have several weeks to construct and prepare the features of Winter Wonderland, such as “Santa’s Village”, the “Holiday Express Train Ride”, the “Living Christmas Tree” and the thousands of lights and decorations that traditionally span the entire Kuser Park. However, this year, these crews will continue to help clear the fallen tree, limbs and storm debris that remain in many parts of the community.
“We have already pulled every employee in our Public Works Department that can possibly help remove the fallen trees, limbs, debris and already fallen leaves from the sides of our roads. And despite this, it will still take weeks to clear this debris across the entire township,” explains Hamilton’s Director of Public Works, Frank V. Ragazzo. “We cannot in good conscience pull Township crews off of our road to spend the next month building Winter Wonderland decorations, while leaving fallen trees across many of our neighborhoods.”
Township officials considered all of the possible ways of preventing an outright cancellation of the community event. But what Hurricane Sandy will yield this year is a very modest Winter Wonderland.
This year’s Winter Wonderland will still allow children to visit Santa Claus on Friday, December 14thfrom 6 PM to 8 PM and on both Saturday, December 15th and Sunday, December 16th from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM. But instead of greeting children in his customary “village”, this year Santa will do so from inside Kuser Mansion. Residents must bring their own cameras to take pictures with Santa.
Winter Wonderland will still kick-off on Friday, December 14th with the traditionally Kuser Christmas Tree Lighting at 5:30 PM. Additionally, visitors will still be able to enjoy the model railroad display in the basement of Kuser Mansion, which is provided by the Jersey Valley Model Railroad Club.
However, unlike past years, there will not be “Santa’s Village”, the “Holiday Express Train Ride”, the “Living Christmas Tree”, food vendors or the magnitude of decorations, lights or other activities.
“This was a decision that was not made lightly, but responsibly,” explains Hamilton’s Business Administrator and Acting Mayor, John F. Ricci. “While the final result may be disappointing, this holiday season we should be very thankful for the blessings we have following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. This holiday season, we continue to keep the thousands of New Jerseyans and residents from neighboring states who have endured losses far beyond our own community’s, in our thoughts, prayers and charitable considerations. In future years, we will be able to enjoy the kind of Winter Wonderland that we have enjoyed in so many past years – and when that time comes, it will be something we can all celebrate.”