In a tradition that dates back nearly five decades, the Coral Bay community came together Wednesday to sing, socialize and welcome Santa.
“Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas,” Santa shouted as he arrived for the celebration.
As always, Santa arrived on a fire truck. And as always, dozens of children ran pell-mell in his direction as the adults smiled on.
This year, however, the party was held on the Sputnik Bar patio because the usual location at the Guy Benjamin School basketball court wasn’t available. The basketball court lights that went down in Hurricane Earl hadn’t yet been fixed.
As Coral Bay has grown over the years, so has the annual party.
“It’s a great community effort,” organizer Alvis Christian said, adding that restaurants and residents contributed the food, the tree and the presents for the children.
Other residents had tales to tell about the olden days when everyone knew everybody else.
Edmond Roberts talked about heading out to Lameshur in one of the first Jeeps to arrive on St. John to serenade the residents who lived in that area.
“If you thought the road is bad now, you should have seen it then,” he said.
The Jeep didn’t quite make the sharp turn heading down into Lameshur so everyone jumped out, picked up the Jeep and set it back on its course, Roberts said.
The serenaders had started out at the East End, about as far from Lameshur as you can get and still be at the eastern end of the island. According to Roberts, they’d sing Christmas carols outside to give the occupants of the house time to get dressed, if need be, and to get food ready to feed the serenaders.
Roberts also talked about using the briar box tree as a Christmas tree because its spines held the candles.
Another Coral Bay elder, Guy Benjamin, spoke about the East End as a place where people cared about each other.
“East End was the nicest, goodest place you can think about,” Benjamin said.
As residents mixed and mingled, Barbara Horan said she came every year to get together with the rest of the community.
Kooline Matthias was there with her son, Ke’Andre Scatliffe, who at one and a half, was just catching on to the Santa tradition.
“Let’s see what he’s going to do when Santa comes,” she said of her son.
While Santa is the main event, the singing gives various neighborhoods and groups the opportunity to shine.
A group of moppets from Montessori School kicked off the singing with their version of “Frosty the Snowman” followed by “Jingle Bells.”
“Jingle Bells” was a big favorite, with several groups doing their version.
Several church choirs took their turn entertaining. A group of senior citizens from the George Simmons Terrace Senior Center also made the trip to Coral Bay to entertain.
The Upper Carolina group wore reindeer antlers, and the group from Skinny Legs gathered people from all over the area to sing.
“If you ever had a burger at Skinny’s, come on,” Pam Gaffin said, urging some reluctant children to join in.
Although Coral Bay lacks snow – and many folks would say, thank heaven for that – lots of the songs focused on that fluffy white stuff.
Coral Bay elder George January entertained with “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” and the Skinny Legs group did an encore of “Winter Wonderland.”
As she does every year, Gaffin brought candy to share. While she tried for her traditional candy canes, the stores were sold out and she had to substitute peppermints.
“Have you been good? Have you been very good? Very, very good?” she asked some children as she passed around the treats.