Sweet treats and eats and good health to all OIB friends this season. Christmas Village has been part of the city’s holiday fabric for more than 50 years. In 1982 it became a remarkable story for the entire country.
On December 7, 1982 an arsonist slipped into Beardsley Park and set fire to the Police Activities League’s Christmas Village, that for more than 25 years had been the site of a Christmas celebration for the city’s impoverished children. Reaction to the shocking fire sparked a massive five-day restoration mission that raised the village from ashes. It became more than a Bridgeport story, growing into one that brought out a collaborative crusade of pride, purpose and generosity from people all over the world. More than 100 men and women tirelessly worked around the clock in a restoration effort that normally would have taken weeks. People donated thousands of dollars to construct a new building, masons, electricians, construction workers donated supplies and time and others donated food for the workers.
Toy companies rushed enough gifts to fill thousands of Santa’s toy bags. Nearly 60,000 people visited the village in the days after its reopening. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed on national television, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” With Mayor Lenny Paoletta taking the call, the president phoned in for the reopening of Christmas Village.
Christmas Village turned out to be the best kind of Christmas gift for Bridgeport’s image.