Starting with the kids
It started out quietly. It was still light and people were just beginning to gather Friday night for the Southport Lights Up celebration. But it wasn't going to be a silent night despite the carol listed on the program. Just the opposite.
The celebration, sponsored by the Southport Island Association (SIA), has been an annual event for years. According to SIA Vice President Carole Zalucky, it always coincides with the start of Advent. Zalucky said, "It's a great way to officially kick off the season."
It was beginning to get dark so the students from Southport Central School assembled in front of the general store barn and on cue began to sing "Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus...right down Southport lane!" The audience was invited to sing along to make up for the voices of the missing students who were in a dress rehearsal for the play “Elf.” The whole group sang together with gusto.
As the last notes of "We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" faded away, the sound of a very heavy vehicle could be heard coming up the hill and around the corner. It was the Southport fire truck with its headlights ablaze. It was almost blinding and, due to the cold air, the exhaust created an amazing cloud of fog billowing up behind.
Suddenly, Santa Claus came bursting through the fog aboard a Yamaha Road Star, a little like Evel Knievel. The crowd went wild and roared with delight!
Simultaneously, the Christmas lights lit up at Southport General Store, the Southport fire station, the Southport post office, Southport Central School and along the edge of School House Pond. Lights also lit up at Southport Library, Southport Town Hall and Methodist Church and a number of participating households on the island.
Santa passed out gift bags to the children with many "ho, ho, ho" exclamations. Then he led a sing-along farewell with the crowd before mounting his motorcycle to head back to the North Pole.
The warm glow of the store and the smell of aromatic mulled cider and piping hot pizza drew the crowd inside for some mouth-watering treats.
Store co-owner Oliver Cusano said about the celebration, "It's all about the kids. They're out there singing carols and they could be completely flat but it wouldn't matter. They're anxious about Santa coming. It starts the season. As soon as it gets dark the whole island lights up. It's about the kids and the community spirit."