The "Roaming Railroad," of Suffield, Conn., may bring its play trains to Sea Isle for the Holiday Extravaganza this year. (Photo courtesy Roaming Railroad website)

By Donald Wittkowski

Move over, Santa, you may have to share the spotlight with another featured attraction at Sea Isle City’s family-friendly Holiday Extravaganza that unfolds each year leading up to Christmas.

The city’s Tourism Commission is discussing plans to have a kiddie railroad chugging around Excursion Park to carry children and their parents.

The choo-choo trains may replace an artificial ice-skating rink that has been one of the centerpieces of the Holiday Extravaganza. Members of the Tourism Commission said the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization will not fund the skating rink this year, so other entertainment options are being considered, including the trains.

“This is an idea, because the ice-skating rink is done,” said City Councilman William Kehner, who serves on the Tourism Commission.

In recent months, the Chamber of Commerce has been discussing its marketing budget, including the possibility of using the $11,000 that has been spent on the Holiday Extravaganza’s skating rink for other projects.

A skating rink made of artificial ice entertains the children during the 2017 Holiday Extravaganza.

Meanwhile, Kehner has contacted a company in Suffield, Conn., known as the “Roaming Railroad,” about the possibility of bringing its playland-like trains to Sea Isle for the weekend-long Holiday Extravaganza celebration. The cost would be $4,500, he said.

The Tourism Commission plans to work with Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s office to make arrangements for the trains.

Kehner wants to begin lining up entertainment for the Holiday Extravaganza well in advance to avoid any last-minute scrambles.

“I thought before we get caught with our pants down, we should be ready,” he told the Tourism Commission members at their Jan. 17 board meeting.

The Holiday Extravaganza is a joint event between the city and the Chamber of Commerce. It includes the Christmas Parade on John F. Kennedy Boulevard, Santa’s arrival in town, the mayor’s tree-lighting ceremony and a series of family-oriented entertainment in Excursion Park.

Santa Claus gives a hug to one of his admirers, 4-year-old Audriana Galbiati, of Vineland, during the 2018 Sea Isle Christmas Parade.

An estimated 2,000 people were in town on Nov. 23 to watch the parade and tree-lighting ceremony during the 2018 Holiday Extravaganza. City officials hope to maintain the festival as a major draw for visitors in 2019.

“We want to continue to have a nice tree-lighting event,” said James Bennett, chairman of the Tourism Commission.

Kehner explained that kiddie trains would be just one way to “spruce up” the holiday celebration this year. The Tourism Commission also discussed the possibility of renting or buying machines that would blow fake snow to give Excursion Park a winter wonderland atmosphere.

Other ideas that were kicked around during the commission’s board meeting included having a Christmas-style village, children’s bounce houses and face-painting at the Holiday Extravaganza to draw big crowds to town.