There might not have been a Christmas Parade this year, but that did not stop Long Beach Island from ushering in the Christmas season on Saturday.
Hot chocolate, candy canes, Christmas carols and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus were all part of the tree lighting celebration sponsored by Long Beach Township PBA 373 and the township.
Out in the municipal ball field in Brant Beach, a tall Christmas tree was having decorations added by local children as it awaited the light switch to be thrown as the evening sky darkened. Many of the children had first gathered under the nearby gazebo to make their own decorations from the pine cones, beads, paper and paint provided.
One of the biggest kids - at heart at least - was township Officer Jeff Olson who couldn’t stop smiling as he hoisted child after child up so they could hang their ornaments.
Off in the distance, a siren could be heard approaching. But this one brought smiles not looks of concern, as everyone on LBI knows Santa’s sleigh is a fire engine. Sure enough, a few minutes later, a Ship Bottom pumper pulled in and the man in red and his wife got out greeting the children that surged forward to meet them and get a candy cane.
Later, as they posed for pictures with the Clauses, it was hard to tell who was more thrilled, the children or their parents seeing them smiling after the recent ordeal.
Anna Burnett, of Beach Haven Terrace, who had been one of the youngsters Olsen had lifted up to hang her ornament posed with her sister and friends.
“She’s been a trooper through all this,” Burnett’s mother Sally said after snapping he picture.
The family rode out the storm and Sally was glad that they now had a chance to have fun and forget about Sandy for a while.
In other holiday news, the annual Christmas tree sale is now underway at the Ship Bottom Fire House at 2006 Central Ave. Also, many local businesses are now open and ready for holiday shoppers.