Apalachicola’s Christmas Celebration at Riverfront Park was the largest ever.
It wasn’t just a large crowd that greeted Santa Claus Friday afternoon when he stepped off the Owen and Devin shrimp boat at Riverfront Park.
And it wasn’t just a long queue of children who waited patiently to sit on the lap of the jolly old elf and share their Christmas wishes.
It was probably, no most certainly, the biggest Black Friday Apalachicola Christmas celebration ever.
"Largest one ever," said John Solomon, director of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event.
By way of example, he said that last year he and his staff had given out 240 free hot dogs. "We gave out 400 hot dogs this year and closed early," he said.
He said he noticed families started to gather at Riverfront Park by about 11 a.m. "When you see that many more people, you go ‘What’s happening here?’" he said. "It’s all for the kids."
The appearance by Santa and Mrs. Claus, their visit once again arranged by Mark and Natalie Parsley, meant Kris Kringle would hear wishes from 4 to well after 7:30 p.m.
New this year was a special guest appearance by The Grinch, who was coaxed into showing up by Donna Duncan, president of the chamber board.
Duncan had encouraged Solomon to invite the Grinch, and he jumped at the opportunity. His (or her) appearance helped to keep the kids active and engaged during the sometimes lengthy wait, and together with the Tide and Seek oyster shell painting booth, overseen by chamber volunteer Nancy Hodgson, was a welcome preoccupation for the kids.
Each of the kids not only got a treat from elves Riley Hollenbeck and Reagen Solomon, but they were presented an age appropriate book after their visit with Santa, courtesy of the "Santa Says… Read" booth, sponsored by the Dinner Divas and Bring Me A Book Franklin.
In addition, the Philaco Woman’s Club had a booth that offered its cork project, with those monies going to the Florida Wild Mammals Association and the county humane society, as well as baked goods, with the monies from those sales going to fund Philaco’s scholarship fund, which last year awarded $1,000 scholarships to three deserving seniors at Franklin County High School.
"The baked goods were gone by 6 p.m.," said Philaco member Sharon Sleeper.
The Mystic Krewe of Salty Barkers, which each year sponsors a grand Mardi Gras parade, was on hand to sell raffle tickets for a handmade quilt featuring famous area dogs, all the money from which also goes toward county animal causes. Plus there was the Mellow Mullet shaved ice concession.
Solomon said from all accounts, the huge celebration was a tremendous boost to the city’s shops, restaurants and drinking establishments, money of which reported very jolly sales numbers.
"They had a wonderful Friday in town," he said.