STAMFORD, Conn. -- “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” ended with the Grinch feeling remorseful and bringing the gifts he stole back to the children of Whoville. But in Stamford’s Heights & Lights event Sunday night, it ended with a famous elf stealing back the gifts, all while suspended hundreds of feet above the ground in the cold winter air.
At the foot of 1 Landmark Square in downtown Stamford, hundreds of families stood in the cold, necks craned, and watched as Santa Claus and his elf helpers rappelled down the side of the 220-foot-tall building, at times fighting the Grinch in the name of holiday spirit.
First came Stamford native and Sacred Heart University Athletic Director Bobby Valentine. But Valentine was too early to save the day. After he and the Stamford’s assistant chief of police touched down on the square’s sidewalk, the Grinch followed with the bag of toys he had stolen from Mrs. Claus.
Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, now a Christmas Elf, quickly followed, beating the Grinch, grabbing the gifts and handing them to Santa and Rudolph on their way down.
However, for Cashman and the rest of the rappelling team, freezing temperatures and strong winds made for an unpleasant descent after dark on Sunday.
“I had to wait for Santa to come down, and it took longer,” Cashman said afterward. “I had to stop doing some stunts because my rope kept getting caught with Rudolph’s.”
The rappellers, including Cashman and Valentine, who kicked back a little too far from the building, were sent barreling back into the concrete facade. Both Cashman and Valentine admitted that the hits into the building were hard and unpleasant, but for Cashman it was the fans on the other side of the wall that were most shocking.
“I was on the far right by the windows,” Cashman told the Daily Voice . “So I kept slamming into the window area, and there were people, believe it or not. Even though the lights are off, there were people in those offices slamming at the window at me and taking photos and laughing.
"I could hear them.”
For Cashman, seeing the people in the windows up near the 21st floor was not distracting but “shocking.” He said his only fear came from the delays due to wind, which he hoped wouldn’t ruin the show for those watching below.
Valentine said he needed a few moments when he first went over the ledge to adjust to the cold and the wind. But once he got started, everything fell into place.
“Down. We went straight down,” Valentine said laughing as he watched as a middle school cast of "Peter Pan Jr." sang carols in Latham Park before the finale with the holiday tree lighting. “[The wind] sped you up a couple of times coming down.”
The Stamford native told the Daily Voice, "Brian Cashman was terrific as an amateur rappeller,” getting down despite the tangled ropes.
“It’s exciting to bring Christmas to Stamford,” Valentine said “It was great to be apart of it.”
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