Against a backdrop of hot chocolate, chocolate chip cookies, hors d’oeuvres, sugar and spice and everything nice and, yes, potato latkes, Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender added an official touch last week to the holiday season by lighting the Inn at Great Neck’s 22-foot Christmas Tree.
The cold weather and a bit of snow earlier in the day kept attendance down at the annual event to which the public is invited, but nonetheless added an appropriate seasonal atmosphere. Alan Mindel, whose family has operated the Inn since 1995, and general manager Frank Manchester hosted the event.
“He’s much better with the Christmas stuff than me,” said Mindel of his manager, in jest. But Mindel added seriously, “Even though we’re a Jewish company we take great pride in throwing a Christmas tree lighting here. We think it’s a great family event for the village. For us, it’s hugely important.”
Mindel, who lives in Lake Success, has been at the Inn since 1999. He had an earlier career as an attorney. “My family asked me to take six months off from practicing law to help out back then and here I am — 14 years later.”
The Mayor threw an oversized remote controlled switch to light the tree with the help of two-year-old Liam Stapleton and his mother, Diane, and his six-month-old brother, Logan. The boys’ dad, Tim Stapleton, who is a cook at the Inn, was there also, but he was disguised as Santa Claus.
“Thank you, Alan, for your hospitality and thank you everyone for coming together for this community event,” the Mayor said just before the tree was lit. “All these kinds of activities show the strength of our community and how much we enjoy doing things together and celebrating what a wonderful community we have.” Celender also revealed a hidden talent, leading the small group in a few Christmas Carols.
“The tree lighting is always a lovely event at this time of the year to bring people together,” she added, after the group was invited indoors for an extensive array of refreshments. “I want to thank the Mindel family for inviting us all here every year and for always making this a festive, inviting and warm event. And I want to extend best wishes for peace, prosperity and health to everyone in 2014, especially to all our residents and businesses in Great Neck Plaza.”
Manchester, who’s been at the Inn for two years, clearly enjoyed taking part in the event. “I think it’s something that we do for the community and for ourselves,” he said. “We enjoy it and our guests who come stay with us during the season enjoy it. It’s something that they look forward to. It’s become a really nice tradition. And we also have the menorah outside, one of the largest menorahs in Great Neck. We’re celebrating all of the wonderful holidays around this time of year and we feel blessed that we have this opportunity to do this for the community.”