by Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette — The Lewiston Christmas Walk kicked off with the anticipated arrival of Santa Claus Saturday, brightening the morning of the children who flocked to Academy Park to see him.
As has been recent tradition, the Christmas icon flew in not by a sleigh led by reindeer, but by helicopter, kicking the loose leaves up off the ground of the village park and brining smiles to the faces of the waiting children.
Then they walked to the Lewiston Peace garden in the 400 block of Center Street for a chance to sit down with him and deliver their Christmas wishes.
Six-year-old Raistlin Rowcroft, who sipped on a hot chocolate from nearby Orange Cat Cafe, said he’s asking Santa for Micro Chargers this year.
“They’re really small cars that go really fast,” he said. “You put them in (a launcher) and then you press a button and they shoot out.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Pitirri, 5, and brother Daniel, 2, joined their father, Mike Pitirri, of Amherst, for the Santa drop off for the first time.
Ryan, said he was very excited for Santa and is asking for Lego blocks this year. Six-year-old Kendra York of Lewiston was also excited for Santa’s arrival and said she was asking for a doll house this year.
Kristina Reagan, who brought her two children – Mackenzie, 5, and Liam, 1 – to the drop off for the first time. The family just moved to the village in May and has been thrilled with the assortment of activities they all can participate in.
“We moved to Lewiston back in May and we love the many festivals here,” she said. “There is a lot of fun things that go on here and we love it. And they’re all family-oriented, which is great.”
Mackenzie, who was shy while being questioned, said she really enjoys skating at the town’s ice rink, built at Academy Park for the winter season.
Recreation Department Director Mike Dashineau said the rink, which opened to the public Saturday to kick off its second year, is much improved from last year’s inaugural offering.
“We wanted to improve the quality of the ice,” he said. “We did a lot of site work in September when the War of 1812 reenactors were in the park. To make the ground level for the ice, we brought in sand to make it more flat.”
With the rink now open, public skates will run through Jan. 27, with hours of operation from 4-8 p.m. Mondays through Thursday, 4-10 p.m. Fridays, 1-10 p.m. Saturdays and 1-8 p.m. Sundays.
Skating is free except during private parties held before or after public skate times on Saturdays. Skate rentals are available for $5, while refreshments will also be served for a nominal fee.
Last year’s rink was also much smaller in size than the one Dashineau and his team have provided the public this year. The current rink is 45 feet by 125 feet, more than double the length of last year’s 40-foot by 60-foot surface.
With thousands of children and adults expected to take advantage of the rink this year, the team, which includes town board Member Michael Marra, was able to secure financial partners through sponsorships this year, bringing in more than $20,000 to help operate the temporary facility.
“I and the entire board are very proud of the rink,” Marra said. “When you stop by and see the young people and families enjoying themselves – what could be better during the holiday season?”
The Lewiston Christmas Walk, which continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, as well as next weekend, Dec. 8 and 9, is also about helping local businesses through shopping and increased traffic. The Lewiston Opera House, 736 Center St., which features the Tuscarora Art Gallery, is looking to sell some of its works to raise money for renovating the building.
Eva Nicklas, Artistic Director of the Lewiston Council on the Arts, said some local artists, including a group of students from Lockport, turned window frames into art for sale to help the building.
“The arts council is manning the Tuscarora Art gallery during the Christmas Walk and we’re having our frame works exhibition and sale,” she said. “People in the community donated window frames, which local artists took and created art with them.”
Some of the frames include paintings, while others are stained glass.
Nicklas said the Christmas Walk is a special time in Lewiston.
“Everybody loves the Christmas Walk,” she said. “It’s just another one of those events that makes Lewiston special.”