Little North Pole To Light Up Early

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Christmas is coming early this year. The lighting of The Little North Pole, the impressively decorated Neponsit home that serves to raise money for juvenile diabetes research, often marks the start of the holiday season, but this year, Santa’s coming to town before the turkey’s defrosted for Thanksgiving. The lighting of the Little North Pole is this Sunday, November 12—but the early date is for a potential good cause.

“This year there’s going to be a TV show involved,” Joe Mure, who owns the decorated home, said. Mure said he couldn’t disclose what TV show it is, but everyone who attends is encouraged to wear some festive clothing, to get some screen time. Mure was extremely hesitant to allow a TV show to become involved in the longtime tradition that primarily serves as a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). “They asked me if I wanted to be a part of the show, and I told them no,” Mure said. But then the show made an offer—which Mure still refused. “They told me that if my house was picked by someone that’s going to show up, that I could win $50,000. I said I’m not interested in the money,” he recalled.

Mure eventually reached a compromise. “I said if the charity could get the $50K and I’d be able to talk about the cause on the show, I’d be interested in doing it.” Three weeks later, Mure got a callback and the producers agreed to his terms. “We’re going to do the best we can. I think we have a good chance of winning the $50K by the neighborhood pulling together and showing that as a community, we’re raising money for JDRF and we’re Rockaway strong,” Mure said. The ceremony will take place with the pre-show starting at 3:30 p.m. and the main event starting at 4 p.m. at 144-03 Neponsit Avenue.

Traditionally, the Little North Pole holds its big lighting ceremony during the first weekend of December, but with the event getting some time in the spotlight, the early date was determined by the TV show producers. Yet Mure says after cameras are gone, he’s planning to give the time to give thanks its own time in the spotlight. “This is the first time we’ll be lighting up before Thanksgiving, and we still want to respect the holiday. So we’ll most likely shut the lights off for a few weeks and light up again right after Thanksgiving,” he said. After Thanksgiving, there will be separate lighting events for a group of special-needs students and St. Camillus Special Olympics.

Despite the early start, the lighting, which is in its 22nd year, won’t be undermined. In fact, Mure says it may be even better this year. “We have a couple new items out there that will make for a surprise additions to the lights, which is pretty amazing. We worked long and hard and put a lot of thought and energy into it and I think we’re going to stand out a bit more this year,” Mure said.

Besides the impressive lights, the show itself, emceed by Goumba Johnny and Joe Causi, is guaranteed to entertain with everyone from local school and dance groups to up-and-coming artists to stars that have had radio hits, taking the stage. Among some of the performers are Angelo and Maria Venuto, Dani Dante, Mr. Christmas Vinnue Medugno and Lucas Prata. Mure says there will also be some fun surprises like the USO girls who will sing some military songs, Stuntman, the original singer of “I Like to Move It, Move It,” Alive and Kicking of the hit “Tighter and Tighter” and other surprise guests.

The biggest guest of all, Santa Claus, will also be making his stop at the Little North Pole on Sunday. Just like every year, the big man in red will be stopping by at the end of the show to give out toys to all of the children in attendance.

Each year, Mure puts on this grand display and opening ceremony for two reasons “One…to put a smile on every kids’ face and give them a memory of Christmas that will last the rest of their lives and two…to help a special group of children that live each and every day of their lives with juvenile diabetes. Every penny we raise goes toward research,” Mure said. In the more than 20 years that he’s been doing it, Mure says they’ve raised close to $2 million for JDRF with the hopes of one day finding a cure. Over the past few years, that money has helped go toward something that makes the lives of those with juvenile diabetes, a little easier.  “The past couple years, all the money we’ve been raising has directly gone toward research for the closed loop system, which is an artificial pancreas that has just been FDA approved and is finally out on the market for people to start using. It’s not perfect, but it definitely changes the life of a person with diabetes and minimizes some of the complications that comes with it,” he said.

Anyone who is interested in making a donation toward the cause can do so at: www.littlenorthpole.org. There will also be donation boxes set up outside Mure’s home throughout the season. On the night of the event, visitors will also have a chance to buy raffle ticket for a stay at a resort in the U.S., Mexico or parts of the Caribbean. Tickets are $20 each or six for $100. The money raised from the raffle will also go toward JDRF.

“We’re hoping the community comes out strong, especially with the TV show filming, and that everyone has a great time,” Mure said.

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