Guttenberg gains a tradition, loses a councilman

First tree lighting ceremony includes farewell to Velez

Guttenberg has a new holiday tradition. Several hundred residents turned up for the first annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Monday, Nov. 30 in front of Town Hall, where they were entertained by Christmas carols, holiday-themed poems, and even a special visitor direct from the North Pole.
“We always have a tree in front of Town Hall,” Mayor Gerald Drasheff told the assembled crowd. “We’ve always done it kind of low key. And we thought that this year it might be a nice idea to do something a little bigger.”

“This is the first time I’ve seen a tree that didn’t look like Charlie Brown’s in front of headquarters.” –Deputy Director Joel Magenheimer
Deputy Director Joel Magenheimer, the person who first suggested the new tradition, served as master of ceremonies for the event. He warmly thanked Benny’s Deli & Liquor for donating the robust tree that was the centerpiece of the evening.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a tree that didn’t look like Charlie Brown’s in front of headquarters,” he joked.
Police cars with flashing lights sealed off both ends of the 6800 block of Park Avenue as attendees filled the folding chairs or stood with cell phones at the ready to take photos. Drasheff indicated his pleasure at the number of residents who turned out to join the celebration.
The mood was festive at a little past 7 p.m. on the cool November evening when festivities began. A dozen or so students from the Anna L. Klein School Choir provided the musical entertainment, singing a selection of four carols. Peppering the evening were brief poems read by town officials or residents, many of whom were decked out in green and red as elves.
The event was capped, of course, by the appearance of Santa himself, who made his way through the crowd of eager children, greeting and high-fiving his way to the tree. After the ceremonial lighting of the decorations, Santa posed for photos with many of the local children – of all ages.

Fond farewell to councilman

The event also included a fond farewell to Councilman Efrain Velez, who is leaving his position as of Friday, Dec. 4.
Mayor Drasheff took the opportunity to thank Velez for his years on the council, and presented him with a plaque in appreciation for his service.
Velez was the longest-serving council member outside of Drasheff, having joined in January 2004. He planned to leave for Florida just days after the tree-lighting event.
The plaque read, in part: “In recognition of your service to all the residents upon your retirement from the Town Council. You have worked diligently for many years to make the Town of Guttenberg a great place to live and to reside. All the residents of Guttenberg are proud of your accomplishments and extend their best wishes for success in the future.”
Velez, joined on the City Hall steps by his wife, accepted the plaque and offered his thanks and good wishes to the town.
“It’s been a pleasure to work with you,” said Drasheff. “You’re going to be missed greatly.”

Art Schwartz may be reached at

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