A visit from Father Christmas

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When Santa Claus sailed into Apalachicola Friday afternoon, he surely knew he would be getting a grand reception.

But just how large, that may have come as a surprise to the Jolly Old Elf and his wife.

With crisp sunny skies, Riverfront Park was the gathering place for what was no doubt Apalachicola’s largest ever downtown Christmas celebration.

After arriving alongside the Grinch aboard the Capt. TJ, captained by Tommy Ward and his family, Santa and Mrs. Claus - their visits arranged by Apalachicola’s Mark and Natalie Parsley - spent four solid hours greeting children.

“I warm them up,” said Mrs. Claus, of how she welcomes apprehensive youngsters. “When they see me, they’re not as scared.”

Seated on a Santa chair found by the Parsleys in a thrift store, St. Nicholas dressed for the occasion in a long robe, patchwork vest and faux fur hat, reminiscent of a 19th century Father Christmas, his attire sewn by Port St. Joe's Renee Valentine.

“I never rush a child,” said Santa

After they told Santa their Christmas wish, the children could then go to the table of books laid out by Bring Me A Book Franklin, and pick out an age-appropriate one.

Karen Kessel, who directs the program, said 384 books were given out, over 100 more than were given out in 2019, the last time the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce was able to hold the celebration.

John Solomon, the chamber’s director, said he and his fellow volunteers gave out 420 hot dogs and a case of popcorn. “We gave out much more than we have in the past,” he said.

He said eight merchants told him they had a record day on Friday, one of whom was Jon Brubacher, of SGI Threads, who said it was the store’s best day since they opened in May 2019.

Mayor Brenda Ash had the honor of lighting the tree, actually a net strung with various nautical ornaments, and in her remarks thanked the chamber, the many local merchants who had stayed open, and the spirit of the supportive audience in celebrating, and shopping, local.

Once lit, the Grinch, whose visit was arranged by Donna Duncan, kept unplugging it, with Solomon having to keep relighting it. “The kids loved it,” he said.

The crew also lit the live tree on the other side of the park.

On Monday, Dec. 6, Santa will pay a visit to the Apalachicola Margaret Key library from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

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