By Donald Wittkowski
Most of the children who plopped on Santa Claus’ lap on Saturday at the Ocean City Music Pier tried their best to remember all of the things they want for Christmas.
However, Olivia Hennessey, 7, and her 5-year-old brother, Connell, really came prepared, bringing with them handwritten wish lists that they presented to Santa.
“I have 24 gifts on it. I looked at a catalog and saw a lot of things that I wanted,” Olivia said, noting that books are at the top of her list.
Well, it appears Santa will be swamped this Christmas. In addition to filling Olivia’s lengthy wish list, he has to deal with all of the gift requests by the dozens and dozens of other children who patiently waited in a long line leading from the Boardwalk to the Music Pier.
“I’ll be very busy,” Santa acknowledged.
Santa greeted all of the children – and one dog named Petey – while posing for pictures in an Ocean City lifeguard boat parked outside the Music Pier.
One child asked him for an aquarium with a boa constrictor in it. Some kids said they wanted Legos, the timeless children’s toy. Others told him they hope to find high-tech gadgets under the Christmas tree on Dec. 25.
“The most touching request I had was from a 12-year-old boy who wanted a warm coat and gloves for his 5-year-old sister,” Santa said.
The portly Santa was instantly recognizable by his trademark snow-white beard, bushy white eyebrows and wire-rimmed glasses. He wore a red Christmas cap and his plush, red suit trimmed in white velvet.
Santa was played by JT Williams, an Ocean City resident. Williams is considered “the official Ocean City Santa” and has been entertaining the town in that role for the past 16 years.
Santa’s appearance at the Music Pier was part of Ocean City’s family-friendly events this weekend during an old-fashioned holiday celebration on the Boardwalk and in the downtown shopping district. On Friday night, Santa dramatically climbed down from the roof of City Hall to light the city’s holiday tree.
He was a big hit Saturday while listening to – and sometimes reading – the children’s gift requests. Children and their parents stood in a block-long line for a chance to have their photos taken with Santa.
Olivia and Connell Hennessey were accompanied by their grandparents, Kathleen and Robert Dooley, of Ocean View. The Dooleys got a chuckle out of the formal gift lists written by their grandkids.
“They certainly came prepared,” Kathleen Dooley said.
Santa scrutinized the lists while talking with Olivia and Connell. The children also gave Santa some holiday cards that they had made themselves. No doubt the cards put him in an even better gift-giving mood.
“I want a bubble ball toy, a motorcycle, a Power Rangers costume and a ping-pong gun,” Connell said, quickly rattling off some of the favorite things on his wish list.
One of the “kids” who sat on Santa’s lap in the lifeguard boat had fur, a tail and four legs. Petey, a 4-year-old Labrador retriever-pit bull mix, was dressed in a festive, red bandana and had a tennis ball in his mouth.
“He wants lots of balls this year,” said Petey’s owner, Jackie Turzer, a Lansdale, Pa., resident who has a summer home in Ocean City.
Perhaps inspired by Petey’s appearance, 9-year-old Harry Skiles asked Santa for a dog, bringing a smile to his mother’s face.
“I think he would be happy with a dog,” said Janet Skiles, who lives in Lancaster, Pa., and has a summer home in Ocean City.
Harry also told Santa that he wanted snorkeling gear and a wetsuit.
“My grandmother has a pool that’s 11 feet deep. I can touch the drain on the bottom of the pool,” Harry said while explaining his desire for a wetsuit and snorkeling gear.
Sue and Mike McElwee, of Churchville, Pa., brought their four children to see Santa, including their 11-month-old daughter, Harlow.
The McElwees’ oldest son, Michael, 10, said he wanted a skateboard. Their 7-year-old son, Maddox, asked Santa for new surfboards, and their 5-year-old son, Mason, requested a Hess toy truck and a Batman toy set.
The McElwees said Ocean City’s array of family-style events, such as Santa’s appearance, play a big role in their decisions to visit the town. They have a vacation home in Ocean City.
“This is the place to go, whether it’s the summer, or a holiday, or if you just want to get out of the city,” Mike McElwee said. “You don’t even think about it. You just automatically go.”