BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The 37th annual Pomerleau Family Holiday Party included a special milestone this year.
The doors opened Sunday to a celebration decades in the making. The 37th Pomerleau Family Holiday Party, brought out the usual large crowd. But, this is a special year.
"This is one of the great events of the year, it is really a wonderful tradition," said Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.
The annual dinner provides low-income Vermonters with a free meal, gifts for the kids, and of course the chance to see Santa Claus and other classic Christmas characters.
"My favorite part about this place is I got to hug Rudolph," said one of the hundreds of children attending the dinner.
Face painting, pictures with Santa, and coloring were some highlights of the party. It's all thanks to Tony Pomerleau. The Burlington businessman, real estate developer, and philanthropist has funded the party since it's start in 1980. But his year, he's celebrating a milestone of his own.
"I'm a young guy, I'm only 100 you know," said Pomerleau.
The party has changed over the years, but the goal of providing less fortunate families with a happy holiday experience has remained the same.
"We started here with only 30 people, and I do this in Newport, Barton, South Burlington. I've probably fed 40 to 50,000," Pomerleau said.
Governor Phil Scott and members of Vermont's congressional delegation joined in on the celebration while honoring the man who made it possible.
"He and his family are perhaps the most generous family in our state and we thank them so much for all of the good they have done," said Senator Bernie Sanders.
To ensure the holiday joy continues year after year, Tony Pomerleau has funded this holiday party for the next 13 years until 2030.