NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The end of Thanksgiving means the beginning of a spectacular event in one Staten Island neighborhood.
With the flip of a switch Thursday night, a dazzling display and loving tribute came to life.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, once the carousel lit up and the Christmas music started to play through Sharrots Road in Charlestown, neighbors flocked to Joseph Dimartino’s house.
“We’re officially open for the season,” he announced.
The winter wonderland starts in front with carolers, animatronic elves and a revolving Rudolph. Walk past moving displays of Victorian dolls, and suddenly you’re in Santa’s workshop.
“Toys go in, they come out wrapped,” DiMartino said.
Smiling elves hammer away, while Saint Nick checks his list and gingerbread men come to life in the sweet shoppe.
“I love it. Every year, I come here and get so excited when it opens up,” one girl said.
The little faces of wonder bring DiMartino back to when he first started decorating, after his wife Debra Ann was killed in the September 11th terror attacks.
“She was on the 89th floor of the South Tower,” he said. “I was left with a 4-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old daughter.”
The pretty lights brought his little girls joy, so he kept adding – opening the display up to all children, as his own grew.
“I love the reindeer,” another girl said.
DiMartino pays for it all himself and buys a new decoration each year. This year, it’s a train, which already seems to be a big hit.
The display is free to visit, but donations go to Staten Island University Hospital Pediatric Unit. Dimartino has raised more than $200,000.
“People hum and they hug me and ‘thank you for cheering me up, I lost my father, I lost my son.’ That’s what it’s all about – making people smile,” he said.
In the North Pole, it’s hard to do anything but smile.