|On Sunday, December 6th, a multi-generational crowd of 5000 people gathered outside the Brick Presbyterian Church at 91st and Park Avenue to sing Christmas Carols and remember the men and women who have died in defense of our country. The fact that the lit trees have served as a memorial since 1945 is often lost as the Park Avenue Tree Lighting has become synonymous with the start of the holiday season in New York. This gift to the City is made possible each year by contributions made to The Fund for Park Avenue .
Holiday parties abound on this special night in the city. Stephanie and Fred Clark traditionally invite their friends for “Carol Practice.” This year the guests included Victoria Vought, Charlie, Mary Jane, Walker and Susanna Brock, Kate Planitzer, Rob Mathew, Liana Piretra, Holland Sullivan, Elizabeth Belfer, Geordie Hebrand, Abby Sullivan, Melissa Fisher, Evey Crawford, Georgina Schaeffer and Philip Thomas.
Others like Nicole and Derek Limbocker invited friends for a potluck supper afterward. The Tree Lighting is truly a Park Avenue celebration so much so that it is featured in The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s new cookbook: Park Avenue Potluck CELEBRATIONS .
|Peppered throughout the crowd were tots in their party best sitting on the shoulders of their parents. Young children shuffled through the mob, trying to get close to the Church steps and the Children’s Choir of Brick Church, while teenagers chatted with absent friends by cell phone, occasionally lifting their phones so their friends could hear the singing throng. Children, parents and grandparents held their song sheets in one hand and their loved ones in the other.
In the crowd were Heather, Tom, Evan and Rory Leeds; Catherine and Bryan Carey with their twins Paul and Bryan II; Helena and Roman Martinez; Wendy Breck; Mary Hickey; Amy and Carter Beal; Sarah Powers; Jason Grant; Jo-Ann Polise; Roger Webster; Kevin, Madeline and Hugh McLaughlin; Barbara Dixon; Vanessa Lovett and Henry and James Deakin.
|Reverend Michael Lindvall, senior pastor of Brick Church, who has opened the ceremonies since 2002, said, “This is a demonstration of Community spirit.” The crowd erupted in a roar of approval. He continued, “We have believers and non believers. There are Christians and Jews and Muslims. We are here to celebrate the holiday spirit and those who have fought for our Country.” The crowd again cheered for the troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq and Minister of Music Keith S. Tóth led them in the caroling.
The first ceremonial tree lighting took place on December 17, 1945. It was initiated by Susan Vanderpoel Clark who wanted to honor the servicemen from World War II, especially those who lost their lives in defense of our country. It was a gesture by the greatest generation.
Mrs. Clark, wife of Stephen Carlton Clark, a philanthropist, heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, with a few of her friends, underwrote the expenses, until her death in the mid 1960s.
|Barbara McLaughlin, President of The Fund for Park Avenue said, “The tree lighting, a source of joy for all New Yorkers and visitors, was continued by other donors during the 1970s, including the philanthropist Mary Lasker.
According to Mrs. McLaughlin, over 1200 people contributed to The Fund this year to cover the costs associated with this program. The preparations began on Veterans Day. In addition to purchasing the trees, which came from Nova Scotia, there is an enormous amount of labor involved in their installation. Each tree is secured with several wire cables and then decorated. There are over 1,000,000 lights – a combination of white and gold.
Half way through the caroling, Thomas Hoyt, played Taps on his trumpet. Then, Rev. Lindvall, said, “Let there be light,” signaling runners who started at 97th Street and ran down to 54th Street, lighting every block of trees. In quick succession, the blaze of light flashed down Park Avenue.
The lights are on every day from 4 pm to 1 am.
|Photographs by Cutty McGill and Roger Webster|
|The Cinema Society, with The New Yorker magazine and Grand Marnier, hosted a screening of "The Young Victoria" at the Regal Union Square Theater this past Thursday night.
The film, about the early years of Queen Victoria's reign and her love affair with Prince Albert, is being buzzed about as an Oscar contender. The film's star Emily Blunt (also getting big Oscar buzz and accolades for her performance) was at the screening as well as the party which followed at private club Norwood.
Also in attendance were Martin Scorsese, Martha Stewart, Lionel Richie, Michael Stipe, Chris Noth, Rachel Hunter, Billy Connolly, Vincent Piazza (“Boardwalk Empire”), Natalie Morales (“White Collar”), Ben Shenkman, Rachel Roy, Bonnie Fuller, First Lady Michelle Paterson, Elise Overland, Hope Atherton, Debbie Bancroft, Daniel Benedict, Theodora Richards, Eugenia Silva, Kelly Bensimon, Grace Hightower, Alexandra Kerry, Irina Pantaeva, Jessica White, Lorenzo Martone, Olivia Palermo (“The City”) and Johannes Huebl, Ghislaine Maxwell, Zani Gugelmann, Jessica Joffe, Bettina Zilkha, Olympic medalist Tim Morehouse, Apparition CEO Bob Berney and Jeanne Berney, producers Graham King and Tim Headington, The New Yorker VP and Publisher Lisa Hughes, and Cinema Society founder Andrew Saffir.
|Photographs by Patrick McMullan|
|Last week, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America's 7th Annual Promise of Partnership Gala was held at the Waldorf, honoring three outstanding corporate leaders: Frank A. Bennack, Jr., Vice Chairman and CEO, Hearst Corporation; John J. Mack, Chairman and CEO, Morgan Stanley; and Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation.|
|The Partnership's longtime mission and passion have been to provide life-saving information for families dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, and the disease of addiction. Since the inception of the Partnership in 1987, there are 9 million fewer people using illicit drugs. Yet the problem continues to have a devastating impact around the country. Half of the 23 million Americans suffering from addiction are 29 years of age or younger.
|There are more than 2 million teenagers who need treatment. And, tragically, over 90% of these teens in crisis get no professional help. Today, the Partnership is working with parents, world-renowned scientists, and parenting experts to develop programs that foster prevention and early intervention and provide help for those in trouble with drugs and alcohol. Funds raised at this event will support their work to help kids and families live safe, healthy, drug-free lives.|
|Photographs by Ann Watt|