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Newton teen performed in Macy’s Thanksgiving parade

SPECIAL THANKSGIVING: Fifteen-year-old Jonathan Gomolka (above) of Newton had the best possible view of this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan. He was in it.

Gomolka, a sophomore at Newton North High School, was among 135 students of the Catskills-based  Stagedoor Manor performing arts summer camp who sang and danced in the grand finale “Santa by the Book,” from “Yes, Virginia the Musical.”  Gomolka, who attended the camp for the last three summers, also performed in the parade in 2010. 

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More than 400 Stagedoor Manor students apply to participate in the annual parade, with this year’s cast representing 27 states, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.  

According to Gomolka, the Stagedoor Manor participants arrived in New York City in time for long rehearsal days last Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Thanksgiving morning, he said, they walked the 2-mile parade route, waving and wishing the 3.5 million spectators a happy Thanksgiving “every two minutes” leading up to their performance introducing Santa and Mrs. Claus.  

Later that afternoon, Gomolka and his mother, Estelle, shared Thanksgiving dinner with friends in New Jersey who had recorded the segment and replayed it repeatedly during the visit.

The three-hour parade aired on NBC-TV to an estimated 50 million viewers across the country.

“It’s fun, but it’s also exhausting because you’re nonstop walking,” said Gomolka, who got to meet rapper Flo Rida at the parade.

“I’ll probably try to do it next year, and the year after that, and until I can’t do it anymore when I’m 18. If you have the opportunity, you should do it while you can.”

LIBRARY TURNS THREE: Alice Jacobs (above) of Newton’s Waban section was a happily retired college professor and career counselor in 2008, but she “couldn’t take it,” she said, when she learned her local branch of the Newton Free Library, at 1608 Beacon St., would be closed as part of the city’s efforts to balance its budget amid the economic downturn.

“To see this particularly attractive building in the heart of the village with its lights off would have been a signal to me that something in the system had broken down,” said Jacobs, who now leads 40 fellow volunteers, ranging in age from 10 to 94, as director of the Waban Library Center.  

The nonprofit library, which recently celebrated its third anniversary, is supported by the Waban Improvement Society. A committee of the Waban Library Center leases the historically significant building from the city, and pays for utilities and other expenses through donations and class fees. Grants from two local family foundations have helped pay for books and furnishings.

The library, which is open six days a week, provides 18,000 volumes, free Internet access, meeting space for civic groups, and programs such as author events, concerts, family game days, and children’s story times.

While Jacobs said it is “incredible” that so many volunteers have stepped forward, she fears the model established by the Waban Library Center will become increasingly common in these hard economic times.

“I keep hearing about non-critical services,” Jacobs said, “but to me, libraries are critical to the culture and social fabric of any vibrant community. It’s wonderful that we’re still here, yet we have so much more to do.”

Patrons of the Waban Library Center must have a photo ID but need not live in Newton. For more details, call 617-244-0700 or visit www.wabanlibrarycenter.org.

TRUTH IN JOURNALISM: Author, educator, journalist, and award-winning media analyst Dan Kennedy (above) will be the featured speaker at the next Walden Forum, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the First Parish in Wayland meetinghouse, at the intersection of routes 20 and 27 in the center of town.

In his presentation “Truth in Journalism: Whose Facts, Whose Reality?” Kennedy will discuss the news media’s role in the contentious presidential campaign that wrapped up last month.

An assistant professor at Northeastern University, Kennedy teaches multimedia reporting, First Amendment law, and other journalism courses. He is a panelist on WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press,” and a regular contributor to numerous newspapers and websites. His blog, Media Nation, is online at www.dankennedy.net.  

The Walden Forum is a free public lecture series. For more information, e-mail ­info@waldenforum.org  or visit www.waldenforum.org.  

SHARING TOYS: The regional Loaves & Fishes organization is seeking donations and volunteers for its annual Shop for Your Kids Day, set for Dec. 20 at the Devens Community Center, 100 Sherman Ave. in Devens.

Last year, 210 client families selected gifts for their children from among donations of new, unwrapped toys, books, jewelry, and gift cards. More than 100 volunteers worked on the event, which provided gifts for an estimated 500 children.

Donations valued up to $25 are being collected for children from infancy to age 18 at the Ayer, Groton, Harvard, Littleton, and Shirley police departments and post offices until Dec. 15.

For a list of drop-off sites and most desired toys, visit www.loavesfishespantry.org. To volunteer, contact Deb Roufos at 978-448-0447 or ­dlroufos@gmail.com.    

ARTFUL WINDOWS: Community members and groups are invited to participate in a window-painting event Saturday as part of the second annual Winter Wonderland  in Framingham.  

The Framingham Downtown Renaissance event will begin with setup at 10 a.m., followed by window-painting from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and cleanup from 2 to 3 p.m.  

For more information about painting or sponsoring a window painted by a local artist, contact Holli Andrews at 508-861-3289 or holli.andrews@gmail.com.  

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@globe.com.
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