Santa Claus emerged from a horse-drawn carriage Sunday afternoon and ran up the steps of the Stony Brook post office, surprising a crowd of children at this year’s Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Holiday Festival.
Hundreds of people attended the 37th annual event, which featured carolers, a petting zoo, a model train show and a tree-lighting ceremony with Santa flipping the switch to illuminate a 60-foot Christmas tree.
“It’s a nice sunny day and it looks like we’ve got a lot of families coming out with their kids. It’s amazing just to see the smiling faces of the children every year,” said organizer Gloria Rocchio, president of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, a nonprofit educational group.
Passers-by crowded to watch the St. James Junior Choir sing Christmas carols while others stopped to take in “The Forgotten Christmas,” a play adapted from a short story by local author, Edward Lapham, and performed by the Ward Melville group’s Youth Corps.
Sixty Christmas trees, covered in tinsel, handmade ornaments and other decorations, stood scattered around the village center. Each tree was purchased and decorated by a different organization and will remain on display for several weeks. All money raised from the tree sales will be used to buy food and clothing for needy families in the area, Rocchio said.
Suzanne Zorn of East Setauket oversaw her 7-year-old twins, Aiden and Skylar, decorating two trees. Aiden hung little American flags and stars on one tree with his fellow Cub Scouts, while Skylar placed candy canes and gingerbread on her Brownie troop’s tree.
“They look forward to this every year,” Zorn said. “It’s something I did with my Girl Scout troop and a great tradition I can pass down to them.”
After taking his son to see the miniature train display, which featured a tiny Polar Express chugging around a track, Chris Palermo, 46, of Ronkonkoma, waited in a long line that stretched past several storefronts. When they came to the front of the line, Nico, 5, hopped onto Santa’s lap and asked for Legos and a toy truck for Christmas.
“We’ve come for a few years now and every year, Nico totally enjoys himself,” Palermo said as his son munched on a candy cane.