Temperatures hovered in the 20s on December 5 when Islanders huddled together at Police Headquarters for the annual lighting of the Town Christmas Tree. Thanks to a steady program of music and the spirit of joy of the season, no one seemed concerned about the cool air.
From the first melodious tones of master of ceremonies Bob DeStefano Sr. welcoming the crowd of about 200 people, to the music that followed and then sharing of hot chocolate and cookies at the Youth Center, it was a night to start this year’s celebration off with great enthusiasm.
Teachers and students from Shelter Island School led by Deanna Locascio and Keith Brace provided the music along with soloist Dennis Raffelock who offered both Christmas carols and winter themed songs that have come to be associated with the season.
Of course, WLNG was on hand to carry the festivities to radio listeners.
Most important, the REAL Santa Claus (aka Jim Pugh) and his charming wife, Mrs. Claus (aka Sarah Shepherd) were on hand to greet young and old alike. Parents and grandparents were as enthusiastic as the children they accompanied to the annual celebration.
Santa hugged babies and invited young children to sit on his lap while delighted parents reached for cellphones to capture pictures of the special moments.
In addition to the tree, lights twinkled invitingly, leading the crowd to the Youth Center where the volume of music and chatter filled the hall with delightful sounds.
The annual event is organized by the Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce with a raft of local merchants — Stars Café, Marie Eiffel, Ali and Keith Bavaro of SALT, The Islander, Vine Street, Shelter Island House, Sanwald Construction and Coastal Window Fashions — who provided those baked cookies while various groups and individuals contributed other services to the success of the evening.
Plenty of individuals — Ms. Cincotta among them — baked their share of the goodies and the following day, packed boxes of leftovers were delivered to the Senior Center, Town Hall and the Police and Highway departments.
Ms. Cincotta of Daniel Gale/Sotheby’s International Realty remembered the early days when cookies were store bought for the event. But thanks to efforts of various bakers and generous souls on the Island, they are now locally baked and hot chocolate prepared the day of the tree lighting was allowed to cool to a comfortable warm level so it could warm the insides without burning the palates of those who indulged in its rich taste, Ms. Cincotta said.
Set ups in advance at the Police Station and Youth Center were handled by Shelter Island Police and Highway Department workers, assisted by Youth Center Director Bethany Ortmann and community members.