Paula Panzarella sent in this write-up and photos about the annual West River holiday party.
On Saturday, Dec. 15, the 5th annual West River neighborhood holiday party was held at Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School. Marjorie Drucker, the school’s liaison for the neighborhood, helped set this collaboration in motion.
The Barnard student chorus entertained, C.J. May wowed the crowd with his magic show, and the holiday band of Frank Panzarella (guitar), John Tulucci (clarinet), Anne Cherry (violin) and Tim Kane (trumpet) got everyone’s toes tapping with their two sets of holiday music, jazz standards and pop tunes. The Barnard art classes made wonderful decorations for the party and Alderwoman Tyisha Walker staffed the arts and crafts tables and brought out the creative energies of the little ones.
Volunteers from the West River Neighborhood Services Committee and students from Barnard School and New Horizon School welcomed the neighbors and kept everything – decorating, set-up, food serving, toy give-away and clean up – running smoothly, allowing all to revel in the joyous ambiance.
The party was a celebration of the neighborhood. The children especially had a great time. They were looking forward to it for weeks as the party was publicized in the neighborhood through flyers and e-mails.
The lunch of baked ziti and salad was generously provided by the food service department of Yale-New Haven Hospital. The abundance of toys from the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program and the Police Athletic League meant each child received two toys. When the kids got their gifts, their faces beamed.
Adults got some presents, too. Start Bank provided flashlight key-chains. Avon calendars were given out and two enormous gift baskets donated by Avon representative Emma Tavares were raffled off.
The tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders was acknowledged by minutes of silence and reflection at the beginning of the gathering. A poster announced the vigil on the New Haven Green for that evening. The West River community reclaimed the elementary school as a safe space and gave honor and respect to the people of Newtown and West River’s own neighborhood families.