Santa Is On His Way: ‘Turn On The Town’ Set for Thursday, Dec. 1

Photo: Santa and friend. 

The Belmont Center Business Association will be staging the 26th annual ‘Turn on the Town” holiday tree lighting on Thursday, Dec. 1 after the Belmont Board of Selectmen approved the yearly celebration of the beginning of the holiday season. 

The night’s events – including the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus on a Belmont Fire truck, food, singing and a petting zoo – will take place on Leonard Street between Channing Road and Alexander Avenue from 5:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. 

The holiday tree located next to the Bellmont Cafe will be turned on by the Claus’  who will then head over to the Belmont Savings Bank – the event’s main sponsor – headquarters at 2 Leonard St. where children (and some adults and pets) can have free photos taken with Jolly Ol’ St. Nick. 

Santa and the Mrs Turns on the Lights in Belmont

Photo: Someone wants mom more than Santa.

Before taking part in the 25th Annual Turn on the Town on Thursday, Dec. 3, Mr. and Mrs. Claus were seen looking at hockey equipment in the basement of Champions Sporting Goods on Leonard Street.

“Doing a little holiday shopping,” said Santa.

I guess there are no elves with hockey making skills at the workshop.

And since the reindeer were not available – they are resting up for the 24th – Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived via Belmont Fire Department fire engine, with Santa strapped on top, to turn on the lights of the town’s Christmas tree adjacent to Bellmont Cafe. 

Then hoping on a horse-drawn carriage, the couple from the North Pole took a quick trip to Belmont Savings Bank (the event’s main sponsor) where they took pictures with children, some parents and a pet or two. 

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It’s Official: Town Day Set for Saturday, May 16 in Belmont Center

Photo: Town Day in Belmont.

Town Day will take place on Saturday, May 16 in Belmont Center after the Belmont Board of Selectmen gave the annual event its blessing at its meeting on Tuesday, April 21. 

Hosted by the Belmont Center Business Association and sponsored by Belmont Savings Bank, kiddy rides, a petting zone sponsored by the Belmont Lions Club, food, and tables manned by organizations and businesses will be located along Leonard Street.

Any group, business or individual seeking to rent a table at Town Day can do so until May 1 at the BCBA web site.

The morning and afternoon event takes place the day after Belmont High School celebrates its prom. 

‘Active’ Bidding for Belmont Center Reconstruction Project

It appears likely that Belmont Center will be quite busy beginning this spring.

Four construction firms have taken out the necessary paper work to bid on the $2.8 million Belmont Center Reconstruction Project since town opened the bidding on Jan. 30.

“This shows there’s interest in the project and that’s good because there will be competitive bidding,” said Andy Rojas, the chair of the Board of Selectmen, who spoke before the Warrant Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 4. 

The project, which is the calumniation of five years of planning and debate, is set to improve sidewalks, crosswalks, pavement repairs and add new lighting in the town’s main business hub.

The bidding period will close on Feb. 27 at 10 a.m. The work is expected to begin in March with expected completion on Oct. 31, 2015.

The reconstruction will also allow the town to install a new parking system that includes parking stations along Leonard Street.

The project was approved by a Special Town Meeting in November, using the town’s “free cash” account to fund the work.  

While businesses along Leonard Street have been supportive of the project, they are wary that the construction schedule will impact the Belmont Center Business Association’s annual Town Day celebration that takes place in mid-June.

“We will need to discuss this with the town so we can plan for it,” said Gerry Dickhaut of Champions Sporting Goods.


Hike in Parking Fees Spark Belmont Business Owners Ire

Photo: Bells & Whistles’ Meghan Aufiero at the community parking lot behind Belmont Center, Tuesday, Feb. 3. 

There was a surprise waiting for Meghan Aufiero as she arrived for work at Bells & Whistles, the home furnishings, gifts and accessories store on Leonard Street on a frigid Tuesday morning, Feb. 3.

As she was putting dollar bills into the parking machine, she discovered the daily rate to park in the Belmont Center commuter lot would cost her an extra $2 a day to $5.

“This is a bummer,” the Winchester resident said when she discovered the 75 percent increase in the price of parking in Belmont’s commercial hub.

Aufiero is just one of dozens of employees of small businesses and franchises feeling the impact of the near doubling of the daily parking charge, approved late last year by the Belmont Board of Selectmen at the recommendation of a citizens/town group that spent more than a year determining the parking operation was not paying its way.

The new parking scheme, which went into effect Sunday, Feb. 1, includes the new fee structure and an attempt to monetize the vast number of commuters who have parked on Belmont streets for nothing, or close to it, for decades.

In addition to the hourly and daily fees jumps, the town has created 10 new weekday parking spots along Royal Road adjacent to the MBTA’s commuter rail station at Belmont Center and spaces in the Belmont Center commuter parking lot reserved for commuter pass holders. Those monthly passes are going for $90 a pop, an increase of $30.
The jump in fees, delayed a month at the request of local businesses, has been as welcome as the two snow storms that have hampered businesses in the town’s main commercial area.

“I can’t, and won’t, tell you how angry I am about this,” said a Leonard Street business proprietor.

Owners say the result of the new commuter parking plan is their staffs are left holding the bag, which needs to be filled with quarters to feed the parking machine.

For Belmont Toys owner Deran Muckjian, the increase will be an additional burden on his employees.

“The are now being asked to pay $1,200 or more this year just to come to work,” he said.

For Shelley MacDonald, who travels from Clarendon Road to Belmont Center, the additional cost of parking is making it harder for her to justify coming to work at the town’s only toy store.

“These little businesses don’t make enough to offset the new price for their employees. How can they retain good workers?” MacDonald asked.

Muckjian is not just upset by the added costs to his employees, but whether the increases are justified. Muckjian said his parking costs in towns where he has other stores are considerably less; in Lexington, he pays $250 a year each for two employee passes while Winchester does not charge a nickel for employee parking permits.

“What are the costs to park here? Keep the blacktop repaired? Making sure the parking machine is working?” Muckjian said.

At the very least, said Muckjian, a discount should be provided to the employees with the subsequent decrease in revenue be made up by increasing the fees on commuters.

A monthly pass at the nearby Alewife Station in Cambridge is $7 a day while the parking lot at the Fitchburg/Acton commuter line stop at the Brandeis stop in Waltham is $4 daily.

So far, there has been little communications between owners and the town on resolving the matter.

Champions Sports Goods owner Gerry Dickhaut said he has yet to receive a reply to a Belmont Center Business Association letter on business owners’ concerns. The single-page note, dated Dec. 8, suggests cutting the increase in the daily rate in half, up a $1 to $4 a day, retain the $60 a month pass for employees while jacking up the cost to commuters to $15 a day, which would still be half the cost of parking in downtown Boston.

But the town official who presented the case for the fee hike at a pair of public meetings last month said the increases in daily and monthly rates are past due.

Belmont Town Treasurer Floyd Carman, said rates have been kept steady since January 2009 while the demand for parking spots is outstripping supply.

“Belmont parking is at a premium. We are not like other towns that either has the space for big lots or a lot of industry that can subsidize parking,” said Carman. “Belmont does not have that luxury; We have a limited number of parking spaces. That’s the facts.”

He said the town’s parking advisory group, made up of residents and town officials, made an extensive analysis of the parking rates in many communities, not just neighboring municipalities. The new price structure “is a function of what it takes to run the program and what’s fair.”

Carman said the need for the town to employ three parking enforcement personnel and keeping all the equipment running requires the town to raise about $35,000 a year on fees to make the program pay for itself.

“Believe me, the town is not getting rich on this increase,” said Carman.

As for alternatives and price breaks for employees, Carman said he has not seen any proposals “come across my desk.”

“If the business association comes to me with a proposal, I am ready to talk to them and then presented to the Board of Selectmen,” said Carman.

The Claus’ are Coming to Belmont Tonight to Turn on the Town

Santa and Mrs. Claus are visiting Belmont Center tonight as the main attraction of the 24th annual Belmont Center Business Association’s “Turn on the Town” celebration taking place Thursday, Dec. 4 beginning at 6 p.m.

The Claus’ will arrive via Belmont Fire Department truck to the town’s Christmas Tree located adjacent to the Bellmont Cafe at 6:20 p.m. and then head over to the Belmont Savings Bank headquarters on Leonard Street where children (and some adults and pets) can have free photos taken with Jolly Ol’ St. Nick from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. While inside, enter to win one of five Holiday Prize Stockings stuffed with goodies.

Celebrate the season of giving and bring non-perishable food items or unwrapped toys to be donated to the Belmont Food Pantry.

There will be stuff happening throughout the Center:

  • Face painting at The Toy Store of Belmont.
  • Cupcake decorating at Champions Sporting Goods.
  • Charity Central at il Casale sponsored by Hammond Residential.
  • Hot cocoa at Belmont Savings Bank & Hammond Realty.
  • The Powers Music School will be performing at Chocolate Dream at 6:30 p.m. with the Vanezia Dance Group at 7:15 p.m.
  • The Belmont High School Madrigals will be caroling everywhere.
  • Frosty and Rudolph will be greetings the tall and small throughout the streets.
  • Hot fried dough at Stonehearth Pizza, sponsored by Coldwell Banker.
  • Glow bracelets will be given out inside Belmont Savings Bank.
  • A balloon artist is sponsored by East Boston Savings Bank.

While at the bank, residents can purchase tickets for next week’s Holly Jolly Trolley tours.

See you there.

Mrs. Claus is Coming to Belmont’s Annual ‘Turn on the Town’ Dec. 4

After 23 years arriving alone, Santa is bringing the Mrs. along for this year’s business trip to Belmont.

Mrs. Claus will join Santa at the Belmont Savings Bank on Thursday, Dec. 4 during the Belmont Center Business Association’s 24th annual “Turn on the Town” celebration. The holiday festivities will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. along Leonard Street in Belmont Center.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive and light the tree adjacent the Bellmont Cafe at approximately 6:20 p.m., before riding their sleigh to the bank’s headquarters at 2 Leonard St. to pose for free photos from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“It is a true pleasure to be again sponsoring Belmont’s Turn on the Town this year, and we look forward to contributing to the continued success of this annual tradition,” said Bob Mahoney, President and CEO of Belmont Savings Bank.

“This year, we are thrilled to be offering free kiddie train rides. They are the latest example of the wonderful ways this event continues to grow and engage with the Belmont community.”

Returning this year, the Bank’s “Santa’s Helper Contest” offers youngsters a chance to ride in the Sleigh with Santa and Mrs. Claus from the tree lighting to the Bank’s Belmont Center branch. The winning family will also be first in line to have their photo taken with Santa and his wife inside the Bank’s branch. Parents may enter their children to win on a landing page on

Outside the branch, Bank employees will be handing out hot chocolate. Inside, the Bank’s executive garage will be a petting zoo.  Additionally, Belmont Savings will be handing out glow sticks inside the branch. There will also be stocking giveaways inside the bank lobby with gift cards and products from Local Rewards partners.

Residents are encouraged to celebrate the season of giving and bring non-perishable food items or unwrapped toys to be donated to the Belmont Food Pantry.

Painting the Town Scary: Belmont Center a Window to Halloween

Maeve Miller, 10, decided to take a different tact on just what to paint on the large window at Starbucks in Belmont Center.

“It’s a monster cake,” said the Belmont resident as she slowly applied green paint onto the glass while amused patrons sat inside with their coffees. The resulting art work produced a Frankenstein-type monster with a squiggly mouth at the base of a frightening pastry.

All day Saturday, Oct. 25, Belmont Center businesses up and down Leonard Street saw their windows transformed into pumpkin patches, ghostly havens and other scenes of specters and ghouls during the second annual Belmont Center Halloween Window Painting Contest.

Kids from second to eight grade – with parents in tow – paid for the privilege to express their scary vision of Halloween on the town’s main drag. Unlike the first contest that took place on a cold and dank fall morning, this Saturday was warm – maybe a bit too warm as windows on the sunny side of the street began flaking under the cloudless sky – and allowed many strollers to come out to see the kid’s artistic prowess.

Halloween-season window painting has a long tradition in other towns – several of Newton’s villages have participated for the past 15 years – and was brought to Belmont with the help of the owners of A Chocolate Dream.

Sponsored by the Belmont Center Business Association, the event’s proceeds were donated to the Foundation for Belmont Education.

Scary Businesses at Belmont’s Second Halloween Window Painting Contest

Leonard Street businesses will have their windows transformed into pumpkin patches, witch covens and scenes of specters and ghouls as the second annual Belmont Center Halloween Window Painting Contest will be held on Saturday, Oct. 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The contest is open to artists in second to eighth grades.

Sponsored by the Belmont Center Business Association, the event’s proceeds are being donated to the Foundation for Belmont Education.

Rain date Sunday, Oct. 26, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Register at: A Chocolate Dream, 68 Leonard St., 617-484-4119.

Register before 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, the fee is $10 per child per window After the deadline, the fee is $15 per child per window. Checks can be made payable to: BCBA or cash

Window Painting Contest Rules:page1image10232 page1image10392

  • Each artist will be assigned a 20″ x 36″ space on the outside of a merchants window in Belmont Center.
  • Sill, wall, and sidewalk areas below window MUST be covered and taped with newspaper.
  • Each artist supplies his or her own tempera (NOT ACRYLIC) paints, brushes, newspaper, rags, and masking tape. All work needs to be done freehand and have a “Halloween” theme.
  • Official rules and regulations will be given out when you register and must be followed closely to avoid disqualification.
  • Windows will be painted on Saturday, October 25th, any time between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm. all work must be finished by 3 p.m.
  • The rain date for painting will be Sunday, October 26, 9am – 3pm. You will receive an email by 8am on Saturday, Oct. 25 if the event will be postponed because of weather-related conditions.
  • Windows are assigned on a first come, first served basis. One window will be assigned to each participant. Due to the popularity of this event, we cannot honor requests for specific windows.
  • Prizes will be awarded for each grade.
  • Winners will be notified by e-mail.

Members of the Belmont Center Business Association: Alchemy, A Chocolate Dream, Bells and Whistles, Belmont Citizens Forum, Belmont Dramatic Club, Belmont Farmer’s Market, Belmont Historical Society, Belmont Orthodontics, Belmont Savings Bank, Bessie Blue, Brugger’s Bagels, Cambridge Savings Bank, Champions, Coldwell Banker, East Boston Savings Bank, Hammond Real Estate, Henry Frost Children’s Program, Ingram, Rettig & Beaty, Inc., Irresistibles, Kashish, Lawndale Realty, Leon & Company, Nicks, Paprika Kids, Patou Thai, Pilates, Ponte & Chau Consulting, Inc., Rancatore’s Ice Cream, Refresh Therapeutic Massage, Revolve, Robert’s Salon, Rotary Club of Belmont, Subway, Thirty Petals,The Toy Shop of Belmont.


Saturday’s Belmont Town Day Postponed As Rain Heads This Way

With heavy rain anticipated to settle over the region this Saturday, the sponsors of Belmont’s Town Day have decided to put the annual day-long celebration on hold for a couple of weeks.

The Belmont Center Business Association made the decision to postpone the yearly event . Town Day will now be held on Saturday, May 31 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“I’m Mr. Positive,” said John Gallagher, a manager at Champions Sporting Goods who has spent the better part of the year setting up the annual event where Leonard Street is closed to traffic and businesses and organizations set up booths along side music, food and entertainment for kids.

While Belmont Town Day has been cancelled, it has never been postponed to a latter date.

“We spent three months planning this and we don’t want to kick it to the side,” said Gallagher, calling the vendors and participants to see if they would be around on the 31st which they were.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed,” said Gallagher.

More information on Town Day can be found by visiting the Belmont Center Business Association’s website.