By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Santa Claus has a very, very special relationship with Sea Isle City. No matter how busy he may be at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas, he always makes sure he visits the resort town to spread plenty of holiday cheer.
Nothing stops him from doing that every year. Not even the coronavirus pandemic.
He arrived in grand style Friday night aboard his fancy Polar Express locomotive to lead Sea Isle’s holiday parade. Responding to his waves, the adoring children shouted “Santa, Santa!” as the colorful procession rolled down Landis Avenue.
After the pandemic forced the cancellation of other Sea Isle holiday events, Mayor Leonard Desiderio came up with the idea for a socially distanced parade that traveled across town from 29th to 94th streets to give spectators plenty of room to spread out.
“Great. It’s going fabulous,” Desiderio, who was wearing a protective mask, exclaimed of the parade while sharing the Polar Express with Santa.
The shore weather wasn’t quite North Pole-like, but the parade still created a Christmassy atmosphere. Spectators savored a mild late November night with temperatures hovering in the mid-50s.
Sea Isle’s downtown twinkled with holiday lights as the parade inched down Landis Avenue. The parade itself included a brightly decorated float featuring the characters from the Disney movie “Frozen.” Disney favorites Mickey and Minnie Mouse waved to the crowds from a convertible.
Fire trucks and other emergency vehicles added to the procession’s multicolor splendor by flashing their lights and blaring their sirens and horns.
Judging by the cheers for him from the children, Santa was clearly the star attraction. Dressed in his trademark plush red suit and hat, he shouted “Merry Christmas!” to the appreciative crowds.
“I love them,” Santa said of the children. “Keep it coming.”
In years past, Santa would join the kids on stage at Excursion Park to sing a medley of Christmas classics. The children would also spend some precious one-on-one time with Santa while telling him their Christmas wish lists.
Traditionally, before the night would end, Santa would also join the mayor to flick the switch to light Sea Isle’s towering holiday tree in Excursion Park amid the cheers of hundreds of spectators.
However, the need for social distancing during the pandemic didn’t allow Santa to perform those duties this year.
Although they couldn’t sit on Santa’s lap this year, the children still had their Christmas wish lists.
Dante Aurichio, 3, Zoey Henrici, 6, and her 3-year-old brother, Dominic, were among the kids who grabbed a prime spot at the corner of Landis Avenue and John F. Kennedy Boulevard to watch Santa and the parade pass by.
It took a little bit of coaxing from his mother, Kendahl Aurichio, of Ocean View, for Dante to say what he hopes to find under the tree on Christmas morning.
“Don’t you want a car?” his mom asked him.
“A Jeep,” he replied.
“What color?” his mom said.
“Red. It’s my favorite color,” Dante blurted out with a laugh.
Zoey didn’t hesitate when her mother, Danelle Henrici, of Egg Harbor Township, asked her what she wants for Christmas.
“I want the American Girl Doll, coloring books and some books,” Zoey said.
Her little brother, Dominic, also was quick to share his Christmas wish list.
“Superheroes, Hulk and Captain America,” Dominic said.
Well, it looks like Santa will be busy when he returns to the North Pole filling the wish lists of Dante, Zoey, Dominic and countless other good little boys and girls around the globe.
No doubt he’ll start right away – after he leaves Sea Isle.