By JESSICA HARDING
LONG BRANCH — Anyone walking the boardwalk of Pier Village on Nov. 27 heard holiday music, smelled hot cocoa and saw bright lights.
Crowds of families came out to participate in the opening celebration of Ice at the Pier, a new outdoor ice skating rink, and to watch the tree lighting ceremony.
To kick off the event, Long Branch High School’s dance team performed and was followed by the high school’s band, color guard and ROTC.
Shawna Tobin enjoyed watching the band perform at holiday events.
“My daughter Samantha is a freshman this year and made the varsity band,” she said. “They had such a wonderful competition season, and now they get to kick off the holiday season here. This is such a nice event because it brings a lot of people here during the off-season. Retailers will have an easier time with the addition of the new rink.”
The band played all kinds of holiday favorites, as the color guard performed. Following the band marching into Pier Village, a train carrying children and providing free train rides was making its way down the street.
Children got to take pictures with familiar holiday characters and Santa, who had come in on a firetruck.
The parade was truly magical as it brought the community together taking pictures and singing along.
Tim McCloone and The Shirleys band also performed that evening. They sang and played popular holiday tunes to get the crowd excited.
George L. Catrambone School music teacher George Marucci came out to support the bands during their performances.
“I come every year,” he said. “These are excellent bands, and anything I could do to show my support for the school district, I will do.”
Many others turned out for the music, along with all the holiday activities.
Director of Marketing for Pier Village Terry Bereheiko is very fond of the holiday season in Long Branch.
“This is the second year of the parade and tree lighting and the first year of the ice skating rink,” she explained. “I love the community aspect — seeing children’s faces, the skating, the lights — the event is truly magical and embodies the holiday spirit.”
Along with Pier Village, the city of Long Branch and the Chamber of Commerce contribute to the tree lighting.
Nancy Kleiberg, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, was happy to participate in the making of the event.
“We help Pier Village coordinate. We all work hard together and start planning for the event in September. We had such a great turnout this year.”
The community counted down to the tree lighting, which ended with a beautifully lit up tree. The ceremony concluded with candy canes being given out to all guests.
The center of the event was the opening of Ice at the Pier, one of the Jersey Shore’s only outdoor ice skating rinks.
Pier Village has become a popular site to visit all year round because of these new elements.
The rink is located at Festival Plaza and made of real ice. It opened on Black Friday and will be open until President’s Day.
To skate, it is $12 for adults and $8 for children and seniors. It costs $4 to rent skates. Once you pay, you can skate all day. Skaters are welcomed to go take a break and enjoy Pier Village’s new family game room to warm up before returning.
Next to the skating arena, guests are invited to purchase warm drinks and snacks from Booskerdoo.
In addition to the rink, Coney Waffle will be opening a new location in December on the property. The popular sweet shop serves waffles, ice cream and elaborate milkshakes.
Married couple, Art and Jill Rothschild, have been members of the Long Branch community for four years. They love these new additions and the spirit.
“We are very involved residents. We feel truly welcomed by all of the events. We like being around all these people,” said Art.
The Rothschilds look forward to bringing their grandchildren to the ice skating rink in the near future.
For more information or to purchase tickets in advance, visit www.iceatthepier.com.