In hopes of bringing some early holiday cheer to local residents who have lived through the stress of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, the Cross County Shopping Center is kicking off the holidays with a tree-lighting event on Saturday.
In addition to free music, face-painting and strolling entertainers, the shopping center is teaming up with its landscape contractors to give away free Christmas trees to the first 200 shoppers who show up for the pre-holiday event.
Liz Pollack, senior marketing manager for Cross County, said that in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and its extensive power outages, the shopping center's management wanted to do something to help residents feel good again for the holidays. To do that, 200 live Christmas trees, ranging from 5 to 6 feet tall, will be given out on Saturday.
Landscapers Tony Casale Inc. and Sawmill Supplies will be handing out the trees starting at 4 p.m. behind The Gap at the shopping center. The trees are netted and Pollack said workers from the landscaping companies will help put the trees on shoppers' cars.
The holiday entertainment kicks off at 6 p.m. at Santa's Village, between The Gap and Zales, with the lighting of a 40-foot-tall Christmas tree and a ceremony to welcome Santa Claus. The party includes a concert by the Rockin' Roll Chorus - a group of about 60 students from New Jersey - as well as free face painting and more.
Kids can visit Santa and have their photos taken with him through Dec. 24. Santa is scheduled to be available 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday (with a couple of breaks to check on his reindeer from 1 to 1:45 p.m. and 4:30 to 5:15 p.m.), and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday (with a break from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.).
On Christmas Eve, Santa will be available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (with a break from 1 to 1:45 p.m.)
Kids who visit Santa also get a free gift.