With ice chips flying past their hair, Melanie O’Brien, 7, and Natalie Imossi, 5, danced near a man sculpting a polar bear out of ice during a New Year’s Eve celebration Tuesday night.
The girls were among the nearly 200 people who attended Long Beach’s “First Night Out,” a first-time event organized by the Historic West End Business Owners, West End Neighbors Civic Association and Imagine Long Beach.
The event was held at West School’s playground and the city’s community center. The school was closed the entire school year and only recently re-opened in September, said City Manager Jack Schnirman.
“It’s important for us to offer Long Beach a new tradition,” Schnirman said. “Tonight brings people together and we plan to continue the trend.”
Over the last two months, residents and business owners planned cash mobs, a scavenger hunt and other initiatives to help drive holiday shoppers to their beach town and to let the public know Long Beach is getting back on track.
This event was the cherry on top. There was interactive music, arts and crafts, face-painting, and hours of ice sculptors creating the Silver Surfer and Polar Bear in real time.
“I think it’s great for the community to show that there’s a place we can gather to enjoy the holidays,” said Natalie’s mother, Rita Imossi, who had to redo her basement on Brookline Avenue due to flooding, but was able to live upstairs. “It’s cold, but as you can see, the girls don’t mind.”
With her face painted like a cat, 7-year-old Destiny Rucker giggled at her reflection in the mirror. Now in first grade at West School, she was displaced in kindergarten due to the school’s water damage -- and that wasn’t the only change Destiny had to adapt to.
“Our house was under 4 feet of water. We lost everything,” said her mother, Michelle Varrone. She said the family moved back to their Michigan Avenue home three months ago.
Varrone said it was good to see her daughter smile after a year of life-altering changes.
“This family event is great for the West End,” Varrone said. “Many of my neighbors still aren’t home yet. I just love seeing a place that was so heavily damaged become a place for us all to gather on New Years Eve. It’s so nice to see everyone so happy again.”