Hundreds gather in Port Washington to ring in the holiday season

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Beverly Hazelkorn's family and Rabbi Paltiel lit the menorah at Sunday's "Grand Menorah Lighting" that was held at the Port Washington LIRR. (Photo courtesy of Rob Salzbank, Rampage Studios)

Despite the rain, hundreds of people gathered in Port Washington on Sunday to attend holiday celebrations.

The Chabad of Port Washington hosted its annual menorah lighting, one of Long Island’s most popular celebrations of Hanukkah, at Port’s LIRR station. At the same time, about 450 people attended Sands Point Preserve‘s “Holiday Tales at the Hearth,” according to the conservancy’s managing director, Beth Horn.

“That’s a record for us,” she said.

At the Hempstead House, children spent time listening to music, going on guided nature hikes, participating in scavenger hunts, making art and crafts or reading books about holidays around the world.

Horn said that the reading room was planned with the hope that children would sit down with their parents and explore diverse holiday traditions.

Organizers had aspired to “extend further than Hanukkah and Christmas” with the event, she said.

There were books about Ramadan, Diwali and Kwanzaa, among others.

Santa and Mrs. Claus came for a visit, along with their head elf who read stories by the fireplace.

There were story tellings every hour and North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink read his favorite children’s book, “Ladybug Rose and the Blue Butterfly.”

North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio also took a turn to tell a story at the event. 

Wink, who celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas with his family, asked the children what other holidays they celebrated.

Children raised their hands and said they celebrated Halloween, Father’s Day and their birthdays.

Meanwhile, Sands Point resident and WOR radio personality Len Berman was the master of ceremonies at the “Grand Menorah Lighting,” which was attended by about 700 people, according to Leah Tobin, the secretary at Port Washington’s Chabad. 

Attendees kicked off the “Festival of Lights” with potato latkes and hot coffee donated by the local Starbucks.

This year’s celebration was dedicated to the memory of Beverly Hazelkorn, a prominent member of the Port Washington community who died in July.

Days before her death, she asked Rabbi Shalom Paltiel if her four grandchildren could light the menorah in her honor.

So, they did exactly that, alongside their grandfather, Steve Hazelkorn.

Rabbi Paltiel described Hazelkorn as being “full of joy and vigor” and said: “It is very appropriate that her life is honored at an event which ushers in the ‘Festival of Light’ to our community.”

Deputy Police Chief Robert Delmuro lit the shamash, the candle which is used to ignite the other lights on the menorah.

Tributes were paid to the 11 victims of the Squirrel Hill massacre when attendees gathered hand-in-hand while Levi Bisk, a young cantor for Port’s Chabad, sang a song on common brotherhood.

The Port Washington Fire Department chipped in to sprinkle the crowd with 3,000 chocolate coins in a feature that is new to this year’s ceremony: the “Mega Gelt Drop.” 

The Chabad of Port Washington has also installed menorahs in other locations throughout Port Washington and Manhasset such as North Shore Farms, Manorhaven Village Hall and on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Port Washington Boulevard.

The Christmas tree lighting at Blumenfeld Park was canceled due to the rain.

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