On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus arrives by flying sleigh. But on Dec. 10 he’ll arrive on Long Island via alternative air transportation — helicopter and plane.
Why aren’t his reindeer guiding him in?
“Not enough snow yet,” says Paul Romanelli of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce, which is coordinating Santa’s stop at the Cutchogue Fire Department.
Here are the details on where and when Santa will disembark:
Christmas in Cutchogue
WHEN | WHERE 9 a.m. Dec. 10 at the Cutchogue Fire Department, 260 New Suffolk Rd., Cutchogue
INFO 631-734-6907, northforkchamber.org/events
The festivities begin with a children’s magic show inside the Cutchogue Fire Department, then a walk to a field outside to await Santa’s arrival from the air.
“When you see that helicopter arriving and you see Santa in there, and he’s waving from inside, you start to believe all over again,” says Joe Corso, director of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce.
“I come out of the helicopter and I greet the kids,” says Santa Claus — who is currently at the North Pole but sent this quote through chamber member Paul Romanelli, who has a critical role in ensuring Santa steps out of the copter (wink, wink).
In past years, Santa has arrived in a bubble-top helicopter; this year, he’ll arrive in one with a side door that slides open to allow him to wave. John Sondgroth, owner of North Fork Helicopters, which has transported the Man in Red to the event every year for decades, says this about being Santa’s personal pilot: “It’s a magical experience that’s only topped by the look on the faces of the children when we arrive.”
After the greeting, follow Santa to Cutchogue Library, where he will pose for photos and give each kida gift of a stuffed reindeer, Santa or elf.
14th annual Re-enactment of the Flying Santa
WHEN | WHERE 11:30 a.m. Dec. 10 at the Fire Island Lighthouse, park at Field 5 at Robert Moses State Park and walk the boardwalk to the lighthouse
INFO 631-661-4876, fireislandlighthouse.com
Back in the days when there wasn’t bridge access to Fire Island, a pilot flew over the Fire Island Lighthouse and dropped a parachute with a box containing holiday gifts for the lighthouse keeper and his family. “It was a neat thing that was done for the people who lived out there and were isolated at Christmastime,” says Chris Soller, superintendent of Fire Island National Seashore.
On Dec. 10, several biplanes from the Bayport Aerodrome will re-enact the event, dropping a package filled with toys and candy. “The kids run to it if it lands nearby,” says David Griese, executive director of the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society. “As the plane circles, Santa magically appears at the top of the tower and waves to the children.” Then, Santa comes down the stairs and every child can sit on his lap.
“If it’s a nice day, we’ll get 400 or 500 people here,” Griese says. “It’s been very successful as a program.”
Santa arrives by train, too
Saint Nick dons his old-fashioned Santa suit this weekend as well, and arrives at the Railroad Museum of Long Island’s Riverhead branch as “Grandfather Christmas” in train style.
Holiday Open House
WHEN | WHERE Noon to 3 p.m. Dec. 10 and Dec. 11 at the Riverhead Railroad Museum of Long Island, 416 Griffing Ave., Riverhead
INFO 631-804-2430, rmli.org
Because the Long Island Rail Road doesn’t reach all the way to the Riverhead Railroad Museum of Long Island location, a truck will fill in for reindeer and tow Santa to the museum in a historic Fairmont Speeder car.
The Fairmont Speeder was once used to transport up to four rail workers and their tools down a track to repair broken rails, says Don Fisher, president of the Railroad Museum of Long Island. “It put-put-putted down the track. Work crews used them all over the country,” Fisher says. “It’s a unique way for Santa to come visit the kids.”
And for this visit, Santa wears his old-fashioned garb as “Grandfather Christmas” and “really looks different,” Fisher says.
In addition to meeting Grandfather Christmas, families can see the museum’s Lionel train layout and, weather permitting, take free rides on the museum’s 1964-65 World’s Fair Park Train.