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Crowds Undeterred by Rain Catch Winter's Eve Kickoff

By Emily Frost | December 2, 2014 8:59am
 The festival features music, food, dance and a tree lighting in Lincoln Square. 
Winter's Eve Festival Marks Start of Holidays
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LINCOLN SQUARE — Parents and children, seniors, and groups of twentysomethings braved the rain Monday night to celebrate the lighting of a 25-foot tall tree, enjoy local food and watch myriad performers at the 15th annual Winter's Eve Festival. 

Hundreds of residents, as well as visitors from other boroughs and upstate, donned raincoats and held aloft umbrellas to move through the free festival, which was mainly held outdoors and ran along Broadway from Columbus Circle to West 68th Street. 

Some performers, like the all-women drumming group Batala NYC and the eclectic Hungry Marching Band, played right on the sidewalks, where passersby were drawn in to stop and watch.

Other groups plugged into sound systems and played from stages in Dante Park and inside Gracious Home, among other spots.

"We say damn the rain, you can't keep us away," Elizabeth Bougerol, the lead singer of the eight-member jazz group The Hot Sardines, told a packed crowd inside the Apple Store. 

Outside, in Richard Tucker Park, at West 66th Street, Mark Miller, one of the lead singers of the Americana band Spuyten Duyvil, urged the crowd to keep up its dancing as his band played.

"I love the dancing with the umbrellas," he said as people in the front row pumped their umbrellas upwards in the air in time to the music's beat. 

Subrina Chowdhury, 22, and Kristina Madrazo, 22, came to the festival from Astoria and Jackson Heights, Queens, where they live, and were pleased by the turnout. 

"We were happy about how even though it's raining, people came," Chowdhury said. 

Madrazo had just sampled some toasted ricotta gnocchi from The Smith, one of the dozens of local restaurants selling small bites from outdoor booths set up along Broadway.

"It was the best gnocchi I'd ever had," she exclaimed. 

The two women and another friend thought they'd head next to sample Magnolia Bakery's cupcakes before wandering among the musical acts. 

"It's so festive," said Madrazo, looking around at the groups of people listening to carolers while they ate sliders and soup from little paper cups. 

Early in the evening, to kick off the festival, folk legend Arlo Guthrie and cast members from Broadway's "Kinky Boots," including star Billy Porter, lit the 25-foot Balsam Fir tree, brought from upstate New York. 

For Bria Agosto, Winter's Eve represented the start of what she hoped would be a longstanding family tradition of seeing a tree lighting with her 4-year-old daughter Hayzalee each year. 

"I went to the Rockefeller tree lighting one time as a child. I told myself I had to bring [Hayzalee] to see a tree being lit up every year," she said. 

"It's perfect," said Agosto, as her daughter looked up at the shimmering blue tree. 

For Greg Packer, 50, the tree lighting is his official mark of the start of the holiday season. 

"It felt beautiful in spite of the rain," Packer said.