The 2020 holiday season has been anything but normal, but the new owners of Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Cutchogue have joined East End growers in delivering safe festivities despite coronavirus restrictions and a widespread tree shortage.
New to Santa’s this season is an outdoor synthetic ice-skating rink that will be open year-round, contactless socially distant visits with the farm’s resident namesake jolly man, plus sensory Santa visits and skating nights for children with autism spectrum disorder — with more fun additions to come in the New Year.
“I just wanted to provide a real Hallmark experience for people to come and be outside with their families, especially going into this season,” said Stacey Soloviev, co-owner of Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm. “People just needed a pick me up.”
Her ex-husband, Stefan Soloviev, of East Hampton, purchased Santa’s for $1.8 million at auction in Suffolk County Surrogate’s Court last year from the family who had run it for more than 30 years, she said. Stacey handles the hospitality side of the company while Stefan, chief executive officer of Kasas-based Crossroads Agriculture, ranks among the 100 largest landowners in the nation, according to The Land Report. The company also owns Hayden’s Orchard in Wading River, Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue, and three other North Fork farms.
Santa’s is one of 10 farms on Long Island — most of which are on the East End — where the public can cut down their own Christmas trees. But they also sell pre-cut trees, which have been in short supply due and high demand nationwide this season, according to national news reports. Stacey said she knew the demand for Christmas trees was going to be high locally after seeing the size of the fall farm day-tripper crowds in October.
“Once we saw the pumpkin season out here, I was like, ‘Oh no, Christmas trees are next,’” she said, noting that she ordered extra evergreens from her upstate pre-cut tree supplier. “We’re having a volume that we’ve never had before.”
Stacey added that a day at Santa’s 23-acre farm is about more than just chopping down trees. This season’s annual sensitive Santa — two nights set aside for children with special needs to meet the big guy and go ice skating without the usual bustle of the weekend rush — was such a success that they added a third night by popular demand on Wednesday, Dec. 16, Stacey noted.
“It’s just a place at a time when families can come and they know it’s really set aside to bring awareness and inclusion and bring a sensitivity to people who may have a harder time just getting to different places for holiday events,” she said. “It’s just been so well received.”
She hopes to expand the sensitive program offerings next year. But adding to the excitement growing on the farm along with the trees is the alpine slide she plans to build next.
“I’m building a six-lane synthetic ice slide that you go down in little sleds,” she added. “It was kind of intricate with the scaffolding. I didn’t want it to be under construction for the holiday season, so I think we’re going to get it put up in January.”
While the Christmas tree farm season is a short one, Santa’s ice rink has it poised to become a year-round destination for East End families.
“I’ve got a lot of local families who come every day after school and they sit by the fire and they go ice skating,” she said. “It’s just been a place for people to see each other and kids can play. It’s been a big undertaking, but it’s worth it.”
Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm LI, 30105 Main Rd., Cutchogue, 631-735-9242, santaschristmastreefarmli.com