Oct. 21, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A group of Astoria business owners and a non-profit are putting up a Christmas tree in Athens Square Park once again this year—and are hosting a fundraising event next week to raise funds for the initiative.
The group, which is comprised of Greek-American and Italian-American business owners, plans to put up a 30-foot tall tree inside the park – located at the intersection of 30th Avenue and 30th Street – at a cost of around $30,000.
The business owners plan to repeat a similar feat from last year, where they came together for the first time to buy, maintain and decorate a Christmas tree as a way of bringing joy to the community, following months of hardship under the pandemic.
They also wanted to draw people to Astoria in order to bolster the local economy and help struggling small businesses.
The group is bringing a tree that is taller this year and plans to make the event a seasonal attraction.
“This year will be even bigger and we want to bring more people to the neighborhood because it is so beautiful,” said Gus Lambropoulos, a local entrepreneur of Greek heritage who is leading the group.
“We want it to become a destination for the world to come and see,” Lambropoulos said.
Lambropoulos said the tree will serve as a symbol of unity for people of all faiths and will help inspire people.
The tree, which will be 20 feet wide, will be placed on the park’s circular stage – in front of the three large columns. It will feature bright white lights, colorful decorations and will also have a star placed on top.
The business group that is helping to fund the tree is comprised of the law firm Saco and Fillas, Luca DiCiero and the real estate firm NYSpace Finders, Antonopoulos Funeral Home, Farenga Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Andrew Latos and family, Alma Bank and The Rock Health and Fitness.
The group is working with the non-profit Athens Square Inc., an organization that regularly hosts entertainment at the park and previously raised funds for some of the park’s Greek-themed sculptures. The non-profit is assisting with the group’s efforts.
Organizers are also sourcing donations from local businesses and the car dealership Northstar Kia has already made a significant contribution, Lambropoulos said.
The businesses are all contributing to a $30,000 fund with $25,000 going towards costs associated with the tree and the remaining $5,000 covering other expenses like entertainment at the official lighting ceremony in December.
The business group is also hosting a fundraising night at Barrio Taqueria, located at 33-02 34th Ave., on Oct. 27 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to raise funds for the initiative. Any surplus funds will go towards paying for another tree in 2022 and beyond, Lambropoulos said.
The organizers have again hired Egan Acres Tree Farm to supply, erect, and decorate the tree. The Yonkers based-company has been a supplier and decorator of some of America’s tallest Christmas trees for over half a century.
The group will source an evergreen coniferous tree called a “Norway Spruce” from Pennsylvania and it will arrive on a large flatbed truck on Nov. 26, Lambropoulos said.
Like last year, a crane will then offload the tree and place it on the stage before a group of workers from Egan Acres will spend around five days putting it up and decorating it.
The project is time-consuming since branches from other trees need to be screwed into the main tree to make it look fuller. There are also restrictions on heavy machinery being used in the park, Lambropoulos said.
An official lighting ceremony will take place on Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. with a group of carol singers and a DJ on hand to mark the occasion. Lambropoulos said he is expecting some celebrities to attend the event.
He said that the tree will stay up at the park until Jan. 8.