Christmas on Cardinall draws festive crowd

Musicians, clowns and a magician entertained hundreds of holiday revelers on Cardinall Avenue as they gathered for the annual Christmas on Cardinall event hosted by Kirk Freeport on Saturday.

Children fought mock street battles with balloon swords and shields, servers in Santa hats threaded their way through the crowd with platters of finger food, a steel pan band played Christmas songs on the heels of a performance by the St. Ignatius School band and Santa and Mrs. Claus held court at one end of the street. Periodically, artificial “snow” drifted through the air.

“We come every year,” said Alicia Rhone, 39. “It’s a lot of fun for the entire family. It caters to everybody. I love the music, the atmosphere and the food of course. There’s lots and lots of food.”

Chef Joao Fernandes, of Kirk Supermarket, was overseeing the food for the evening. He said he expected to feed pizza, chicken wings, conch fritters, turkey sliders, pot stickers and more to 1,600 people during the 4-7 p.m. event. It’s the largest of the holiday catering events he does in a schedule that is packed from now until the new year.

“After the new year, I can relax just a little bit,” Mr. Fernandes said.

Despite the long hours, he said, he relishes the annual Cardinall Avenue event, especially when he can tell people are enjoying the food he and his nine-member team are serving. “If people love the food, they will come back to you,” he said.

A young girl enjoys the falling ‘snow,’ while Wannabe the clown, aka Kathryn Bender, makes her a balloon animal. – Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

Richard Kyberd, 52, said he started coming several years ago when his son, Ryan, was a member of the St. Ignatius School band. Ryan is now 21, but the family continues to take part. Richard said he likes taking advantage of the deals and the giveaways some of the stores offer, along with the entertainment and the food.

“It’s a good little event,” Mr. Kyberd said. “The only thing is, they don’t serve alcohol,” he added with a smile. “But we’ll deal with that.”

Stores on the street keep late hours to accommodate those who want to shop. It’s one of the busiest nights of the year for some.

“Tonight we’re having more shopping than we normally do,” said Tonja White, manager of Kirk Jewelers. “We’re way more busy than we have been. I would say a good 500-plus came in tonight.”

It’s not simply about retail, though, she said.

“It’s more of a ‘thank you’ to all the customers,” she said of the festival event. “It’s really about families and their kids.

“I like that sense of community. And you can see the kids love it.”

Kyla Machingambi, 8, shares a moment with Mrs. Claus at Saturday’s Christmas on Cardinall event.