It was a disappointment to many in Bellport Village when the annual Christmas parade had to be cancelled at the last minute, on Dec. 3, due to unfortunate weather conditions. However, this made Bellport’s Village Stroll, held on Saturday, Dec. 17, from 5 to 8 p.m., even more special to the community, and featured Santa Claus, who made an appearance in a light-bedecked antique Bellport fire truck, capped with a reindeer emblem at its head. He made his long-awaited procession—to the delight of a large group of children and families lining up—to take photos with the jolly gent, on both sides of Main Street.
While it doesn’t get more tried-and-true than Mr. Kringle at the time of jingle, a new cultural initiative was added to the event this year: “Song in Nature” presented a causal and festive program, which included an audience-friendly, live musical performance of opera, musical theater classics, holiday carols, and even some sea shanties thrown in, paying homage to Bellport being a seaside village.
Holiday shoppers were invited to kick off the event outside on South Country Road and then leisurely stroll, listen to music, partake in refreshments, and make memories with their families, friends, and neighbors.
It was a sight to behold as carolers of all ages, ranging from children to seniors, sang along with lyric sheets as Opera Bellport brought a high note to the evening, offering several superb sets of song selections. Victoria Thomasch, mezzo-soprano; Wil Kellerman, baritone; and Leesa Dahl, music director, performed outside TOLA. Their eclectic program included selections such as “Votre Toast (Toreador Song)” from the popular Bizet opera, “Carmen”; as well as familiar Christmas songs such as “O Holy Night,” musical theatre numbers such as “If Ever I Would Leave You” from “Camelot,” and the jaunty sea shanty sing-along ,“What Do We Do with a Drunken Sailor?”
The well-attended event was organized by The Bellport Chamber of Commerce with powerhouse duo, LuAnn Thompson, owner of Bellport Arts & Framing, and Alison Buck, owner of TOLA, co-presidents of the chamber, both at the helm for double the Christmas cheer.
“It’s our holiday shopping start, so we combined and added the fire truck, that the kids missed, and Santa is the attraction of the parade,” said Thompson, who was adorned in a quintessential Christmas sweater, while her employee, Christa Mingino, was a vision in a red-and-green plaid skirt.
Another highlight of the event was the refreshments served at TOLA, which was packed with shoppers and taste-testers trying to decipher the secret ingredient imbued into all the food and beverages served at the chic boutique. The person with the most discerning palate—able to solve the gustatory mystery contained therein the empanadas, churros, Christmas punch, and margarita—wins a $150 gift card to TOLA, in a longstanding tradition which Buck revived again for this year’s holiday extravaganza.
Carlos Magill was one of the many shoppers in the village who found exactly what they were looking for that night. “I came here for a hat and found one at TOLA,” he said, smiling with the fuzzy knit hat in his hand. “I just moved back to Bellport after six years. It’s a great community of friends and fun. It’s more vibrant, and all better than ever,” said the Bellport resident, who was glad to be back in the quaint seaside community that just has a certain magic about it, particularly during the holiday season, when all the shops and restaurants, evocative of a bygone era, are festooned with lights and bustling with people all glad to be together amid a downtown that feels like an extended family.
“I headed the event. Everything is a lot of hard work. It’s one of the best turnouts. The opera is new for us. It’s our own little Norman Rockwell,” said Buck, the event’s chairperson. A third-generation Bellport resident, she added, “It’s all about community spirit.”