MARCO ISLAND — Santa has a new ride.
Unlike years past, when he has dropped from the sky via helicopter for his annual visit to the Shops of Marco, he showed up Friday evening in a shiny red sleigh that was actually the Tower 50 extension ladder truck of the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department. He was accompanied by Mrs. Claus, long-suffering as always behind every successful global entrepreneur is a partner, smiling, waving and baking cookies elves, and his own security detail, headed up by Carmen Dasti.
With the majority of the parking lot not having to be reserved for an “LZ,” or landing zone, there was more room to park, but apparently, a fire truck is not the same draw as a whirlybird, and the crowd of parents and grandparents bringing the kids to see Santa arrive was noticeably lighter than customary.
Even so, there was a crush to greet the Man in Red as he alit from the truck, which pulled up, lights ablaze and sirens blaring, just after the sunset faded from the sky, giving maximum effect for the truck. Engineer/EMT Kenny Stenback, behind the wheel, said the temperature had been below zero when they left the North Pole, and he was glad to be back in sunny Southwest Florida. The Clauses headed into Salon and Spa Botanica for a marathon photo session, with children lined up down the block to have their photo taken with Santa.
Steve Reynolds provided the sound, Sean Gerhardstein did detailed face paintings on any kid who could sit still, and a group of classic cars out front gave the dads something to check out. One vehicle, a 1969 Jeepster Commando convertible, is reportedly Santa’s (and Mrs. Claus’) ride when they are not taking care of business at the toy factory.
Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy met with the committee working to add another event to Christmas Island Style next year, trying to set up an ice skating rink, probably at Veterans’ Community Park. The Walsh-Crane Gang showed up of course in wacky Christmas outfits, complete with electric lights, and Dave and Susie Walsh’s son Tim came along with his young family, letting the kids see early that their grandparents are a little different.
Christmas Island Style chairman Steve Stefanides said Santa may yet get in some time in a rotary-wing aircraft this season, with the possibility of him choppering into Mackle Park Dec. 14 for Cookies and Milk with Santa.