Santa Parades Through Town in his Sleigh – A Behind the Scenes Story

Danta at the 2013 East Hampton Santa Parade
Danta at the 2013 East Hampton Santa Parade, Photo: Richard Lewin

I don’t want to ruin the show for everybody, but I want to take you behind the scenes a little bit in describing the Santa Parade held in East Hampton last Saturday December 7 at 10 a.m.

First of all, here was the show from out front. The parade began at the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street and headed east toward the center of town. In order, there was the United States Color Guard at the front, Town Crier Hugh King in his top hat, tails and silver-handled cane, Peaches the Donkey, the CDCH Charter School float, the East Hampton Cub Scout Pack 426 float with Disney characters from the movies (including a dignified Lion King bringing up the rear), Mayor Paul Rickenbach riding on the East Hampton Ocean Rescue float, floats from Girl Scouts Unit 63, including marching Disney characters, a line of Midget and antique cars, marchers from the Rotary Club of East Hampton, the Sag Harbor Girls Field Hockey Team State Champs, Schenck Fuel’s float, the Springs School Band with its leader Ben Jones at the helm, cartoon characters and a float from the Star of East Lodge 843, a whole line of antique tractors putt-putting and banging along, floats and marchers from the YMCA East Hampton Rec Center and, high up in the cockpit of a giant sleigh bringing up the rear, Mr. and Mrs. Claus battling snowflakes while eight full-size reindeers (in reindeer suits and on their hind legs), pulled the sleigh down the street.

A line of fire trucks with horns sounding and lights flashing put an exclamation point behind that. What a parade. Several hundred people lined the parade route, which came down Main Street to the east, turned left at the light at Newtown Lane and went all the way out to the railroad station.

How do I know all this? Margie Meighan of the Bridgehampton National Bank who also is the treasurer of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce, directed the line of the parade from its mustering grounds on the Presbyterian Church grounds out into the street and off. She carried a clipboard, and on it the sheet showing the order of the parade and another copy for me.

Who am I? Well, for the last four years, I was Mr. Ho Ho Ho, the man standing atop the sleigh with the Misses.

Let me tell you about this sleigh. It was a wonder of wood paneling, railings, decoration and Christmas wreaths. It sat on some sort of motorized vehicle with wheels. And it was so high, it was a big job just to climb up to the top and get in there seven feet up. From the back seat, an elf operated a leaf blower rigged up to a tube with duct tape, which sucked potato flakes set in a bucket on the floor down into the tube and under the sleigh to be sent blowing high in the air from its maw at the front. Its goal was to continuously waft me and Mrs. Claus with flurries for the duration. I can tell you it did not snow anywhere else either in town or on the eight respected citizens in front of the snowblower who had zipped themselves into reindeer suits, put huge reindeer helmets over their heads and gave us a tow.

Coming out into the line of the parade, we were accompanied by an advance man, Frosty the Snowman, who worked both sides of the street getting the parents and children ready for our arrival. Every police officer in town, many on bicycles, seemed to be there. I have never seen so many people smiling, parents, children, police too. As for me, I felt like a rock star. Everybody between the ages of 2 and 10 were either dazzled, frightened, in awe of, in love with, shy of, or just plain amazed at seeing Santa. As for me, I waved to everyone, as did the Misses. Also, this year, for the first time, I wore the wire-rimmed glasses I own that do not turn dark in the sunshine. In prior years I was the man of mystery. This year I was the real Claus. The real Claus doesn’t mess with sunglasses.

I want to thank everyone who worked to make this parade happen, from the Mayor to Marina Van to Ed Dressler, to John Flaherty and others just too many to mention. Me and the Misses talked about it afterwards. We are definitely going to fly down to East Hampton and come down Main Street again next year.

The sheet with the order of the parade on it ends with this:

PLEASE BE SURE POLICE KNOW SANTA SHOULD BE PICKED UP RIGHT AFTER HIS FLOAT PASSES THE RR TRACKS and brought to the Huntting Inn. Children will be waiting and he will only be there until noon. He has to get back to the North Pole, to supervise the elves and keep them from drinking the Christmas sherry.

I have to say there are two different kinds of people in the world. Those who are shy and those who are hams. Shy people should never be Santa Clause Hams, and I am one of those, have a morning never to be forgotten. Here’s a whole line of floats and marchers all leading, at the end of the parade, Santa and Mrs. Santa high up on a bright red float into town. The Pope, were he to come to East Hampton, would have had a better turnout, but not by much.

During the hour or so I sat in the big chair at the Huntting Inn afterwards, I spent a minute or two with 46 little kids, each of whom, one after another, either accepted or refused the offer made by their parents to jump up into my lap.

Reactions to this ranged all over the lot. Those under the age of one and a half didn’t seem to mind. Those above one and a half had a wide variety of emotions. Some knew right away what they wanted to tell me and leaped right up. Others took one look at the white beard, the red suit and the black boots, shrieked in terror and backtracked to stand trembling behind mom or dad. At least two children, both girls, hugged Santa Clause for so long they had to be pried loose to give others a chance. Others were wary, either doing this only for their parents, refusing to do this in rebellion against their parents, were nervous or uncertain about what to do, or, in one case, came up on the lap and tried to boss me around for awhile.

I think everyone, at one time or another, should lift 46 live children weighing 15 to 40 pounds, one after another, plop them into their laps and try to briefly make friends with them. I loved every minute of it.

There’s nothing like telling a kid who nods when you ask him if he’s been good, to then be able to assure him you’ll do your very best to make sure he is happy on Christmas morning.

Scenes from the 2013 East Hampton Santa Parade
Scenes from the 2013 East Hampton Santa Parade, Photos: Richard Lewin

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