Dec. 14, 2005 Santa arrived at the annual Coral Bay Community Christmas party on island time a bit later than planned but that didn't stop dozens of kids from giving him big hugs and pulling on his beard.
"It's real," he told the kids as they tugged.
It was, too, since Santa was ably played by the bewhiskered and Santa-esque George Belcher, better known in these parts as Refrigerator George for his refrigerator-fixing abilities.
He arrived on a fire truck to 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the children.
The event, held at the Guy Benjamin School basketball court, brought together about 150 of Coral Bay area residents.
Sitting front and center in the bleachers and singing his 93-year-old heart out was the man whose name graces the school – Guy Benjamin.
He also offered the opening prayer.
"Thank you for teaching us to live like brothers," he said.
Groups from various Coral Bay neighborhoods gathered to sing. A few, including Sen. Craig Barshinger, seemed to live in several neighborhoods since they participated with various groups.
Barshinger is a Coral Bay resident.
When they weren't singing, people visited with old friends and made new ones.
"We came for the conviviality the joy of the season," Bill Fisk said.
Joan Thomas said she's been coming to this event for many years.
"We sing every year too," she said.
Alvis Christian, who helped organize the Christmas program, said that it dates back 45 years.
He said that George and Eirleen January, who led the crowd in singing "Silent Night," were among the founders.
The night wrapped up with refreshments and presents for the kids.
Sharon Coldren, president of the Coral Bay Community Council, said that several of the organization's members made special donations to help pay for presents, some people brought presents and some Coral Bay businesses donated gifts.
"Books, teddy bears, toys," she said.
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