Ogdensburg restarts Winter Fest tradition

01 Feb 2016 | 03:35

“It's al-right- now, baby; It's al-right now,” could be heard at the Heater's Pond Island as more than 150 Ogdensburg residents celebrated the Winter Fest 2016 bonfire.

Kids laughed, screamed, “Mommy, it's awesome!” [the bonfire] and climbed rocks, while others ice skated and slid around to the music.

On Saturday night, Ogdensburg restarted a more than 60-year tradition of community, keeping warm at the bonfire, enjoying hot chocolate, and grilled hot dogs. As the last package of hot dogs went on the grill, Councilman George Hutnick could be seen on the phone ordering doughnuts from Dunkin' Donuts; and Mayor Steve Ciasullo said, the borough may order pizza, too.

This year's Winter Fest took off because of the efforts of many. Councilwoman Rachel Slater volunteered to head up the event after Ciasullo suggested the Council restart the tradition. The tradition had been put on pause since 2009.

Slater explained that beginning in 1954, the Ogdensburg Winter Fest had been an enormous bonfire of Christmas Trees, organized by the Ogdensburg Volunteer Fire Department. However, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection stepped in and forbade the celebration because Christmas trees are recyclable.

This year, Ogdensburg burned old palettes in an enormous bonfire, creating hot coals, on a cold, brittle evening. Faithfully, the Ogdensburg First Aid Squad, Ogdensburg Volunteer Firemen, and Ogdensburg Police stood on call, just in case.

The mayor and council: Ciasullo, Slater, Hutnick, Councilwoman Regina Rizzo, Superintendent and Councilman David Astor, Councilmen Robert McGuire, and Peter Opillo, gathered palettes and prepared, along with the Department of Public Works, for the night. In addition, Astor made hot chocolate with the Ogdensburg teachers; and McGuire grilled hot dogs.

“Nobody looks like they want to leave,” Ciasullo said.