Historic Christmas Tree lights for hope during COVID-19 pandemic

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, N.J. -- Mullica Hill's Main Street bustles with small businesses, decorative lights and a family atmosphere. This peaks when nearly 10,000 flock to the historic 65-foot Christmas tree to light it for the holiday season.

The November event known as "Lights on Main" poses an incredible contrast to the street's scene in April 2020. The outbreak of COVID-19 has kept locals from engaging in their regular community activities, leaving only lonely cars to pass through.

Community leaders decided to illuminate these dark times with a symbol for both hope and the future. They brought the historic tree, now more than 50 years old, out of hibernation.

Every night, the radiant glow of this Christmas tree will shine above the blooming flowers of springtime.

This would be hard to believe seven years ago when the tree was nearly dismantled due to increasing costs. Residents came together to raise the funds to outfit the tree with proper care and a fresh set of lights, which inspired the now-famous event in 2013. To this day, locals believe it is the tallest living Christmas tree in New Jersey.

"It's kind of like that little Central Park type of feel, where people kind of just come, sit down, take a breather, gather their thoughts of the day," said James Malaby, the chef-owner of Blueplate Restaurant on Main Street. He typically plays Christmas music from his restaurant that sets the mood for passersby. With the restaurant's interior closed, Malaby and others are creating pickup and delivery opportunities for locals.

In addition, residents are volunteering to pick up and deliver groceries for at-risk individuals. Last week, volunteers made over 400 phone calls to the elederly, disabled, and others just to check up on them.

The outpouring of love is no surprise to Committeeman Adam Wingate. "I've been born and raised here. So, it's a very tight-knit community," he said. He has watched Harrison Township's population grow by nearly 10,000 people and says it never lost the feeling of family.

To learn more about Harrison Township's COVID-19 response, visit their site.

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