MARCO ISLAND — Marco’s Santa Claus, Steve Stefanides, is taking a brief sigh of relief before beginning to prepare for the next Christmas Island Style, just 364 days away.
After putting on about a dozen Christmas events and getting numerous gifts to Islanders, ‘Stef ,‘ as most people call the chairman of Christmas Island Style, says it’s not quite over yet.
He is taking a brief, and cold, hiatus in Munster, Indiana, about a half hour south of Chicago.
“I left Marco Monday after being MC for MICA’s Christmas concert at Residents’ Beach. It was 80 degrees. I landed in Chicago. It was 8 degrees. Sweetheart it’s snowing sideways right now,” he says to the Eagle.
One could imagine Stef buried under a floating pile of Christmas Island Style paper work and printed e-mails as the holiday season unwinds. Instead, he is buried under about 10 inches of snow.
When he returns on New Year’s Day, the community Christmas tree and all its trimmings will be taken down and put away.
Luckily, he says he doesn’t do it alone. He has at least 20 Island ‘elves’ on the Christmas Island Style Committee that help put it all together and many who will help put it all away.
Christmas Island Style Awards at Marco Community Bank, 6 p.m., Jan. 12, will cap off the season.
In the mean time, Stef and others are reflecting on some of Christmas Island Style’s highlights, including the boat parade and the street parade, which drew about 5,000 people kept safe by the Marco Island Police Department, Marco Island Fire Rescue Department and Marco Police Foundation.
The highlight for Stef was the Salute to Veterans, organized by Pat Reese, because it was an “emotional” concert by the Marco Island Charter Middle School Jazz Band for veterans, such as Bill Slocum, 88, he said.
It was the first year Christmas Island Style hosted the event and the first year the community celebrated the holidays in the new Veterans’ Community Park on Elkcam Circle.
Treasurer Barbara Dasti said the highlight for her was the tree lighting.
“It was the first year in the new venue and you can see the tree much better … I can see in the years to come, Elkcam Circle will be almost as big of a thorough fare as Collier Boulevard,” Dasti said.
She admits she was “a little crazed” by all the work but it was worth it to see as many as 4,000 people enjoy the community tree.
“I didn’t know how much went into all this until I got involved this year,” she said.
Stefanides said after the awards ceremony he might take about a month off before he starts it all over again.
He and Dasti also said they wanted to acknowledge all the people who helped put Christmas Island Style together this year.
Gregg Schneider of Condee Cooling, who Stefanides describes as a “sincere” giver, spent hours checking every light, perfecting sound and assisting with multiple events.
“Deb Sanders and Dick Shanahan, who serve on almost every committee in the city, helped organize the boat parade judges and Cindy McCue of the Marco Cancer Society helped organize the event,” Dasti said.
From the summer golf tournament to Tuesday’s delivery of grocery gift certificates to an Island family in need by police officer Jen Lofy, there is a definition to Christmas Island Style.
“It’s about the community getting together to celebrate Christmas Island Style. Everyone forgetting about the infighting, the politics and being thankful for what we have, which is paradise,” Dasti said.
Others who contributed to Christmas Island Style include the Italian American Club, Pat and Roy Birkelind, the Optimists Club, Deb Schroeder of Spa Botanica, Pete and Eileen Ward, Paul Freeman, Kristina Hodgden of the city’s water department and organizer of MOMs as well as Carmen Dasti. The list could go on.
“I’ve gotten to know so many caring people through Stef,” Dasti said.