By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sometimes, Santa leaves the sleigh and reindeer at the North Pole.
Whenever he makes a special appearance in Sea Isle City, for instance, he depends on his Polar Express locomotive to chug around town.
Escorted by a convoy of fire trucks that flashed their lights and rang their sirens, Santa paid a visit Saturday to the good little boys and girls of Sea Isle – the adults, too – during a “Holiday Drive-by Parade” just one week before Christmas.
“The children, I love them all,” Santa said as he prepared to board the Polar Express for the parade.
Santa also had a few words of advice for the kids to make sure they will find plenty of gifts under the tree come Christmas morning.
“Be nice,” he said. “If they are, they’ll be happy.”
Santa hoped to spread a little holiday cheer around town by riding in the parade with Mayor Leonard Desiderio.
“Merry Christmas!” the mayor shouted while greeting the parade spectators.
Also making a special appearance for the festivities was a surprisingly good-natured Grinch. Although he had his trademark scowl on his face, the Grinch joined Santa in waving to their fans while the parade of fire trucks made its way up and down the streets.
“It warms my heart to see children cheer and jump for joy as Santa Claus approaches. Families were also happy to see the Grinch. He was a big hit, too,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
The parade rolled through town, but the route was determined by families who registered with the city’s Recreation Office to have Santa drive by their homes. Nearly 40 homes registered.
Sea Isle residents Christine and Steve Valenzano waited at the corner of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Landis Avenue to greet Santa and the parade.
“We’re waiting for him to come by. Everyone gets excited when you say ‘Santa Claus,’” Steve said.
The Valenzanos knew the parade was approaching – even when it was still blocks away – by listening to the blaring sirens from the fire trucks.
“Maybe once they hear the sirens, people will start coming out,” Christine said.
They did indeed. As the parade traveled from 33rd Street up to 91st Street, hitting many other streets along the way, spectators stood in front of their homes to get a glimpse of Santa.
“We were delighted to see so many happy people enjoying the parade,” Custer said. “It’s wonderful events like these that remind me how fortunate I am to live in Sea Isle City.”