Santa Claus comes to town for Riverhead Lions parade

JENNETT MERIDEN RUSSELL | Santa Claus makes his way down Main Street during the Riverhead Lions Club annual Christmas parade

Hundreds of people braved bitter cold temperatures Sunday to see Santa and the Riverhead Lions Club annual Christmas Parade trundle down Main Street in Riverhead.

Lasting about a half-hour,  the parade featured a showing of fire departments, ambulance companies, clubs, classic cars, farmers, dignitaries, kids and even a pirate or two from Riverhead and surrounding areas. The parade was followed by a kids meet and greet with Santa on the Riverhead Town show mobile in the parking lot next to the Peconic River.

During post parade ceremonies, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter presented Santa with a key to the town.

“This is a very special day and a very special time of the year,” Mr. Walter said. “And Santa Claus, for those of us who don’t have chimneys, we present the key to the Town of Riverhead to you, so you can get in and give all the good boys and girls, moms and dads, presents.”

Riverhead Lions Club President Robert Kozakiewicz said he was pleased by the turnout and recalled that as a child, he had regularly attended the parade and waited in line to see Santa Claus after the march.

“There was a nice showing, we had a lot of participants in the parade,” said Mr. Kozakiewicz, who has been Lions Club president for more than a decade. “We’ve been doing this event since we were chartered, about 50 – 60 years, and I know from my days as a young man, I remember coming down here and standing on that line, waiting for Santa. The Lions were kind enough to send me to camp one year, so, I’ve known the Lions for quite a while and the juxtaposition to president is great. It was a wonderful transition.”

Among those to meet Santa was 6-year-old Jayme Seal. While most kids greeted Santa and quickly moved on to getting candy in a large box next to the jolly old elf, the little Riverhead resident spent several minutes hugging and chatting with the king of Christmas to make sure that her holiday present wishes were filed properly.

“I asked Santa for a video doll,” Jayme said, with no explanation of just exactly what a “video doll” was. Even so, she felt certain that the man in red still got the order right. “And, Santa said I could get anything.”

Participating in the parade was Aysha Ozyilmaz. The 16-year-old Riverhead resident is a member of the Riverhead Key Club Maritime Pirates.

Dressed in full pirate garb, Aysha noted that the Key Club would be hosting a Pirates Christmas Show, starring the Maritime Pirates, on Thursday, December 16, at Pulaski Street Elementary School at 6:30 p.m.; show time is 7:30 p.m.

Aysha said being a Maritime Pirate and participating in the parade was a matter of community involvement, which she said warmed her heart — despite the freezing cold temperatures.

“It was cold! Very cold, but seeing the kid’s smiles really made my day,” Aysha said. “It’s all about community spirit and making the kids smile.”