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Vallone announces revival of Bell Blvd children’s holiday parade

Santa Claus is coming to town again. He’s making a list and checking it twice for good little boys and girls in Bayside.

Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said last week that he would revive the Santa Claus Parade tradition that ended in 2004. The announcement was made at the renaming part of 43rd Avenue in Bayside after the late Ben Fried, an area merchant, who died last year at the age of 98 and established the children’s holiday parade.

“It’s time to revive an old tradition,” Vallone said. “It’s perfect for the small businesses in the area and it will be fun for all.”

According to Jack Fried, the son of Ben Fried, his father started the parade around 1995. “He did it on his own and asked the merchants for $10 each to cover expenses,” Jack Fried said.

Money raised paid for the travel expenses of the Francis Lewis High School Marching Band from Fresh Meadows and candy canes for the youngsters.

The parade was eliminated in 2005 because there was no one to organize it.Although there was talk that the Bayside Business Association would take it over in the future, that did not materialize.

Traditionally, the parade traveled along Bell Boulevard from 39th Avenue to Northern Boulevard on a mid-December Saturday morning. Besides the band, St. Kevin’s Sea Cadets marched and there were even some small floats on the back of flatbed trucks.

Neighborhood youngsters also marched and were followed at the end by Santa Claus atop a fire truck.

In the early days, youngsters were treated to a free movie or cartoons at the former US Bayside Theater on Bell Boulevard. After the theater closed, youngsters went to PS 31 for a magic show and a special gift from Santa.

Jack Fried remembers about 500 youngsters participated each year and said it was always a popular event. He vowed to work on the resurrected event. “I’m very happy Councilman Vallone wants to revive it,” he said. “It’s a nice gesture of giving back to the community.”

Vallone said he envisions a winter festival and the parade linked to the lighting of the holiday lights on Bell. “I want my kids to have the experience of it,” he said.

The councilman is working with the Bayside Business Association and the Bayside Village Business Improvement District to iron out the details.

Lyle Sclair, executive director of the Bayside Village BID, called it a “great idea” for a “family-friendly neighborhood.”

Sclair doesn’t expect the extra costs to be high and that it’s more of a logistics problem on closing off Bell Boulevard, lining up the band and planning all the details.

“This year will be a start,” he said, noting that the holiday lights are already budgeted. “We are one piece of the Bayside puzzle and we can do a lot of coordination.”

People interested in getting involved in the Santa Parade can call Vallone’s office at (718) 619-8611.

Fried said he’s sorry his father didn’t live to see it happen, “but I know he’s looking down with a smile on his face.”

See complete story at Queens Chronicle.