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Despite snow, ‘Flying Santa’ makes Fire Island holiday party

Despite freezing temperatures and a slippery trek to the iconic lighthouse, more than 200 people showed up for the annual festivities.

Max Connolly, 10, left, and his brother, Oliver

Max Connolly, 10, left, and his brother, Oliver Connolly, 12, of Point Lookout, talk with "Flying Santa" Nick Worontzoff, of East Islip, about what they would like for Christmas. Photo Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Santa on Saturday was like many would-be air travelers: Grounded by snow.

The jolly elf’s traditional biplane flight to the Fire Island Lighthouse to deliver holiday treats to children was scrubbed. He took a car instead.

Despite snow, freezing temperatures and a 3/4-mile slippery trek to the iconic lighthouse from the nearest parking lot, more than 200 people showed up.

The plan was to carry out the 15th annual re-enactment of a 1953 aerial delivery of Christmas gifts to then-isolated lighthouse keeper Godfried Mahler, his wife Marilyn and their sons, Gottfried and Richard.

A plane flew over the barrier island and dropped the family a package containing candy, toys, newspapers and spices, said David Griese, executive director of the Fire Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, which hosted the event.

While the vintage plane had to be scratched Saturday, the party went on, including the appearance of the bearded headliner in a fluffy red suit.

“It’s a great time for people to come out and celebrate the season,” Griese said.

The lore of “Flying Santa” actually dates back to Christmas 1929, he said. That’s when packages of gifts were dropped from a plane to lighthouse keepers and their families along the New England coast as a gesture of good will because they were isolated on islands that were mostly inaccessible during winter months.

Despite the frigid conditions, Joy Connolly came to Fire Island from Point Lookout. She stood in line with her sons Oliver, 12, and Max, 10, so the boys could tell Santa what they wanted and have their photo taken.

“It added to the season to have some winter weather. We’ve never come to Fire Island for a Christmas event, so I thought it would be fun for my children,” she said.

Christine Mustacchio of Seaford came with her twin 6-year-old daughters Carrie and Shae. She said they visit the island’s beaches four to five times each summer.

“We thought we would come to see Santa here because it’s a special place for us,” Mustacchio said. “We didn’t worry about the weather.”

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