A three-wheeled sleigh: Santa arrives at Shops of Marco

Lance Shearer
Santa greets his public, including Abigail Kuhn, 2. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived Friday evening at the Shops of Marco, posing for pictures with children and officially kicking off the Christmas season.

Like many Marco Islanders, the Clauses head north before Dec. 25 to take care of business in the busy pre-Christmas season, although even the Canadian snowbirds don’t go all the way to the North Pole. A frequent flyer, Santa has to cover a lot of ground, or air, on Christmas Eve, hitting more addresses than UPS, FedEx and USPS combined.

But Friday evening he came to the Shops of Marco to officially kick off the Christmas shopping season. Whereas in the past Santa has arrived by helicopter or on board a Marco Island firetruck, this year he showed up on the back of Carmen Dasti’s three-wheeled motorcycle.

For her ride, Mrs. Claus opted for the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department’s tower truck, with Chief Mike Murphy acting as traffic controller for the big rig as it glided in just after dark with lights blazing and siren blaring. Marco Island Police Department (MIPD) Chief Al Schettino headed up a contingent of Marco’s finest to make sure the crowd didn’t get unruly, or really just to help direct traffic and keep everyone safe.

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. The kids were wide-eyed seeing Santa, but some of the youngest were not too sure what to make of this bearded stranger, and let their moms know they had no intention of sitting on his lap – presents or no presents.

Mrs. Claus is escorted in from her fire truck. Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived Friday evening at the Shops of Marco, posing for pictures with children and officially kicking off the Christmas season.

Many of the children sported holiday bows, reindeer antlers or even a Christmas tree’s worth of electric lights, which you have to believe were done by their parents to make them unbearably cute. City Council Chair Jared Grifoni brought his children, Calvin, 8, and Tosca, 6, who reveled in the chance to tour the firetruck.

Also on hand to greet the Clauses – or is it the Kringles? – were Christmas Island Style board members Steve Josslyn, Bette McGillivray and Sandi Sims-Ravage, along with the ubiquitous Steve Reynolds spinning Christmas tunes over the P.A. system and acting as announcer.

Former MIPD patrolman Frank Steiger and Christmas Island Style photographer shot the official photos of children with Santa, while parents snapped away with their own cameras and cellphones. Bill Schroeder passed out candy or a cookie to each child as they finished with their photo, restraining them from grabbing the goodies by the handful.

“The one you touch is the one you get,” he told them.

Although this year's boat parade was cancelled due to navigational difficulties in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Christmas Island Style (CIS) is keeping up a full slate of activities. Next up is the big one: the tree-lighting ceremony at Veterans’ Community Park, set for this coming Saturday evening. For a complete listing of all CIS events, visit christmasislandstyle.com.