COEYMANS HOLLOW — Santa Claus made an early visit to Coeymans Hollow last weekend to sit with children, listen to their hopes and dreams, and enjoy a spot of lunch.
The firehouse was all decked out for the annual Lunch with Santa, put on by the Coeymans Hollow Auxiliary, with help from the Coeymans Hollow Volunteer Fire Corporation firefighters.
The event has become an annual tradition in the community.
“We have been doing this since before I joined the fire department, which was 25 years ago,” said Mary Ann Dennis, president of the Auxiliary.
Auxiliary members prepare the food, bake the many cookies and organize, but Dennis tipped her hat to the firefighters, who also do their part.
“The fire company not only gives us physical assistance, sometimes they also help with finances and gifts for the kids. It’s an Auxiliary event, but the firefighters help out a lot, too.”
Roughly 30 kids turned out. They did crafts and enjoyed a lunch of chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese, followed by a large selection of holiday cookies and brownies.
Then it was time for the lead-up to Santa’s visit — a magic show by Bowey the Clown, who had the kids laughing the entire time.
One of Bowey’s “magic assistants” was Johnathon Guido, 10, who didn’t even know he was coming to the event until he arrived there with his father and sister.
“I didn’t tell them they were going to see Santa before we got here,” said his father, Michael Guido, also a firefighter at the Coeymans Hollow Volunteer Fire Corporation.
“They had to be good first,” he added with a smile. “When they saw the Christmas tree and the Santa [mail] box, they got really excited.”
Martin Delgado brought his three children to the firehouse for Lunch with Santa. This was their second time.
“We moved into the area last year and that was our first time,” Delgado said. “They are absolutely having a great time. They are especially looking forward to seeing Santa. They have been asking when they were going to get to see Santa. They are having a lot of fun.”
Building that type of connection with the community, and especially the children, is a big reason the Auxiliary and the firefighters have been putting on the event for the past few decades.
“This helps us connect to the community,” Dennis said. “We want the kids to see what we do for the community, and to come see the firehouse. That can be exciting for the children. It’s another way to get people in to see what we are doing, and that we are here for them.”
Sue Stratta is financial secretary for the Auxiliary and helps co-organize Lunch with Santa each year. She said sometimes, assistance in putting on the days’ activities can come from surprising quarters.
“This brings people together. It’s the spirit of Christmas,” Stratta said. “We even have a 10-year-old girl who helps us decorate for the event. It’s her second year decorating. It’s the spirit of the season.”
District Commissioner Jack Dennis said it’s all part of the firehouse being an active participant in Coeymans Hollow.
“We like to bring the community together,” Jack Dennis said. “We are part of the community, and we want the community to be part of us.”