By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Let’s hope that Santa Claus was wearing long johns.
Bundled up in his trademark plush red velvet suit, hat and white gloves, Santa had to endure some blustery and chilly weather during his grand appearance Friday night in Sea Isle City for the annual holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony.
Although it wasn’t quite North Pole-like at the shore, the temperature dipped into the upper 30s amid gusty winds to definitely give Sea Isle a Christmassy feel.
“Ho-ho-ho. Merry Christmas!” Santa beckoned to the parade’s spectators as his breath was visible in the frigid air.
Santa left Rudolph and the other reindeer back at the North Pole to let them rest up before Christmas Eve, so he arrived in Sea Isle on his fancy Polar Express locomotive to lead the parade.
He was joined by Mickey and Minnie Mouse and an assortment of other costumed characters riding on brightly decorated floats with twinkling lights. Fire trucks and other emergency vehicles added to the parade’s multicolor splendor by flashing their lights and blaring their sirens.
Hundreds of adoring children and adults lining the sidewalks delighted in seeing Santa and the parade’s other stars pass by and give them a wave. The festive atmosphere reminded Lisa Sommer of a Hallmark channel movie.
“Sea Isle looks to me like a Hallmark movie right now. I feel like I’m in a Hallmark movie,” Sommer said while joined by her husband, Rich, and son, Ethan.
The Sommers, of Chalfont, Pa., were visiting Sea Isle for the Thanksgiving weekend and enjoying their first holiday parade at the shore. The weekend getaway was also a way for Lisa and Rich to celebrate their 21st wedding anniversary on Dec. 2 a little early.
Lisa Sommer was prepared for the brisk night, dressing in bundles of warm clothing that included three ponchos, a polar fleece, hat, gloves, two scarves, long johns and boots.
“It’s not that bad,” she said with a laugh about the wintry weather. “I have on eight layers.”
Sommer stood on the corner of Central Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard waiting for the parade to pass by. When she spotted Santa, she waved and cheered.
Jackie and Pat Rogers, of West Chester, Pa., also visiting the shore for the holiday weekend, brought their daughters, Taylor, 4, and Paige, 2, to the parade.
Taylor, dressed in a pink parka, said she wants Santa to bring her a unicorn and some jewelry for Christmas. At the top of Paige’s Christmas wish list is a Princess Elsa doll from the Disney movie “Frozen.”
“I want an Elsa, too,” Taylor said, drawing smiles from her parents.
The parade started at 31st Street, rolled along Central Avenue up to 84th Street and then made a U-turn to head back on Landis Avenue up to Excursion Park at the end of JFK Boulevard.
Santa took to the stage at the Excursion Park Band Shell, along with Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio, Mickey and Minnie Mouse and some dancing elves.
“One more time, let’s hear it for Santa Claus!” Desiderio boomed into the microphone while exhorting the cheering crowd at Excursion Park. “We want to thank Santa Claus for coming from the North Pole.”
Brushing aside the cold weather, Desiderio jokingly promised everyone that “tomorrow is going to be 83 degrees in Sea Isle.”
While standing on the stage, Santa fist-bumped with the children and led them in a medley of Christmas classics, including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
Noah Parfitt, 7, of Hatboro, Pa., watched in amazement as he stood just feet from Santa. Noah was able to get a fist-bump from Santa when he first arrived on stage.
“I’m happy. It was great,” Noah exclaimed.
Before the dramatic night ended, there was one other honor that Santa performed to cap off the celebration. With the mayor at his side, Santa flicked the switch to light Sea Isle’s towering holiday tree in Excursion Park.
The crowd roared in approval.