Santa makes an early appearance in Riverhead parade

JESSICA DINAPOLI PHOTO | Olivia, left, and Charlotte Blasko of Cutchogue sit on Santa's lap in Riverhead Sunday.

In a giant white beard and red suit, he had to be the real Santa Claus.

Even Bob Zappulla’s own grandchildren certainly believed he was the man from the North Pole.

Actually, he’s from Calverton.

During the annual Riverhead Lions Club Christmas parade on Sunday, Mr. Zapulla — otherwise known as Santa —  shouted out a greeting to Trevor, Mark and Jimmy Zappulla of Jamesport.

Later, when they told their grandfather all about it after the day’s festivities, they told him, “Santa knew my name,” Mr. Zappulla said.

After Councilman John Dunleavy stepped down as the jolly old elf three years ago, Mr. Zappulla took on the role.  The annual parade down Main Street puts Mr. Zappulla in the Christmas spirit. “I enjoy it more every year,” he said.

At least 200 people came out to enjoy the event, said Lions’ president and parade organizer Bob Kozakiewicz. The Riverhead Fire Department, local Girl and Boy Scout troops, antique car clubs and the Riverhead High School marching band participated.

The Lions have been holding the parade for more than 50 years, Mr. Kozakiewicz said. David Hildesheim of Mattituck said he walked in the parade as a child and now brings his children, Andrew and Samantha, down to Riverhead to see Santa.

“It lets us relive our youth,” said Chrissy Slee of Riverhead, who said she has been coming to the parade since childhood.

Kindles, cash and Lego sets were this year’s most requested gifts, Mr. Zappulla reported. He listened to the wishes of more than 100 children Sunday. Both Connor Sadeli-Weidner of Riverhead and Daniel Squires of Aquebogue asked for $85 cash. Connor wants to buy his own Lego set while Daniel wants lacrosse accessories.

Chris Jones of Riverhead said that he had asked Santa for a toy crane. “I want it so I can lift stuff off of my truck,” he said.

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