Story by Lisa Rice
The Christmas light display at the Poloniak home on Spanktown Rd. in Warwick has become a must-see holiday tradition for many Warwick families, as well as the family and friends who visit in December each year. This year, however, for the first time since it began in 1974, Vince Poloniak was unable to decorate due to a health issue this past fall.
“I usually start on the outside right after Halloween,” said Poloniak. “This year, the doctors advised against it. It’s the first time I’ve had Thanksgiving since 1974.”
“It started when I was very young,” said Paula Kammarada, Poloniak’s daughter. “As the years went on, he kept expanding. He orders new stuff every year. When my mom was alive, they had people come through the inside too. They offered cookies and hot chocolate.”
“I started it for the kids,” said Poloniak. “I started by cutting out figurines on plywood in 1974. My wife bought stuff on sale. By 1990, we started going wild; up to 50,000 lights.”
A Grateful Community Says ‘Thank You’
As news spread throughout the community and across social media that the beloved light display would not shine this year, those who appreciated the labor of love provided by Vince Poloniak had the opportunity to say thank you.
“People offered to put up the display for him, but he needs to be out there. He can’t just hand someone a plan,” said Kammarada. “I’ve noticed from Facebook and social media, the overwhelming appreciation shown to my family. It is overwhelming.”
As more and more people expressed their desire to thank Mr. Poloniak for his generosity, Susan McCosker took the reins to coordinate the efforts. Eileen Patterson at Track7 offered to put out a box to collect greeting cards and notes.
The Praino family at 4 Wilder Circle, who also does an elaborate Christmas light display, put out a large purple and gold toy collection bin courtesy of Warwick Sanitation, where people could drop off toys to be donated to the RJR (Richard Jacob Rudy) Memorial Fund in Poloniak’s name.
In lieu of gift cards, McCosker put together a donation to the Polish Legion of American Veterans Post #16 in his name. Some people stopped by the house to say thank you and left cards, cookies and candy. And on Sat., Dec. 21, Warwick Valley High School Meistersingers along with Choral Director Noreen Hanson surprised Poloniak with a special performance just for him at his home.
“It was beautiful,” Kammarada said of the surprise performance. “My dad was very surprised and it touched his heart.”
Who Knew Santa Claus Lives in Warwick?
The Christmas light display is not the only way Poloniak celebrates each year. He also makes appearances at many local Santa breakfasts, dressed as the man himself. He has his own Santa costume, and has been known to greet people at his home clad in the big red suit and handing out candy canes. Most recently, he visited breakfasts at Orange County Parks and Stony Ford.
And to answer the big question: will the display be back next year? “My dad had me order stuff this year for next year,” said Kammarada. “It will be back. He loves Christmas.”
“I enjoy doing it,” said Poloniak. “I sort of miss it this year. It will be back next year.”