With an arctic breeze blowing in from the nearby Long Island Sound and people dressed as Santa in the restaurants and amusement park, Bayville was transformed into the veritable North Pole of Long Island — at least for one evening.
The festivities were part of the second annual SantaCon Long Island, a burgeoning local tradition. The event’s organizers hope that it will someday rival SantaCon NYC, a “non-denominational, non-commercial, non-political and non-sensical Santa Claus convention that occurs once a year for absolutely no reason,” according to the event website.
At SantaCon NYC, people dressed as Santa Claus gather for a night of drinking and merriment. It is also a charity drive that raises thousands of dollars and collects pounds of canned food for various charities.
Michael Difelippo is the general manager of the trio of Bayville businesses — the Shipwreck Tavern, Beaches and Cream restaurant and the Bayville Adventure Park — that started SantaCon Long Island in 2011. He said his businesses will match any donations made during this year’s SantaCon, and proceeds would benefit the Glen Cove Boys & Girls Club and Christ Church in Oyster Bay.
“People could use a lot of stuff right now, especially because of [Hurricane Sandy],” Difelippo said. “Hopefully we have a good night here.”
This year’s event, held on Dec. 22, offered special discounts to those who came dressed as Santa. Several other bars and restaurants from Bayville, Oyster Bay and Locust Valley were also involved this year.
Above: Employees of the Bayville Winter Wonderland — Chris Murray, left, 18; Christine Dexter, 19; Meta Jaggi, 24; Matthew Dexter, 17; and Victor Galvez, 17 — lock arms and show the guests how to ice skate at the second annual SantaCon Long Island in Bayville. (Dec. 22, 2012)
Though the celebration was humble compared to the massive NYC SantaCon, the event’s organizers said they hope the new Long Island tradition will continue to grow over the coming years.
John Templeton, of Smithtown, decided to attend SantaCon Long Island with his brother, cousin and several friends to celebrate his 34th birthday.
“We always like to do something different and original on my birthday,” Templeton said.
In the early evening, Templeton and his company were the lone Santas enjoying half-price drinks at the Shipwreck Tavern, but they didn’t seem to mind. Swinging his green and red plaid scarf over his shoulder with much aplomb, Templeton said they were glad to be pioneers of the Long Island version of an event they had previously enjoyed in the city.
“We’re loving this, it’s just so much fun,” said Janelle Buoniello, Templeton’s cousin and a Bayville native.
Behind the Shipwreck Tavern, Bayville Adventure Park was converted to the Christmas-themed Bayville Winter Wonderland. Behind the out-of-season outdoor tiki bar, there was a temporary ice skating surface. The nautical-themed miniature golf course and funhouses were covered in colorful Christmas decorations.
Characters such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and a mouse dressed as Santa Claus all warmly greeted guests, despite the cold. Unfazed by the weather, Tracy Oak drove a long distance from Aquebogue to enjoy an evening with her children — Kyle, 13, and Riley, 7.
“We’re all together and we’re happy,” Oak said.