The Mineola Fire Department’s holiday tradition has been in full swing this month.
Between Dec. 10 to Dec. 23, the department has been paying personal visits to residents in the village alongside Santa, Rudolph, Frosty and Santa’s elves. Residents can make a call to the Operation Santa hotline, organized by ex-Chief Gary Mazur, and specify which night they want to see Santa.
This year, the department is offering a hybrid system and families can request whether to have Santa come inside with his gifts.
Mineola Trustee Paul Pereira said at last week’s board meeting that the excitement may have switched between generations.
“It seems to me that the parents are getting even more excited than the kids, which I think Is great,” he said.
Following last Wednesday’s shift, Brendan Corrigan, the first lieutenant for Co. 2, spoke about how the tradition has fared so far. Corrigan had just completed his shift for the night, overseeing Mineola Engine Co. 3’s visits.
The 23-year-old described how what initially starts off slow, quickly ramps up to fully booked nights for the department.
“Starting out with six to eight stops quickly elevates to over 20 stops a night as we go on,” Corrigan said.
Families can either leave presents outside the door or the department will deliver small gifts to children. Corrigan said many of the younger members dress up and ride the company’s floodlight car, which has been in the department since 1938, playing music with Christmas lights installed.
To his knowledge, Corrigan said, Mineola is the only village in the area that does Santa visits on this large a scale. Corrigan said it is a great feeling seeing children run out to the engines when they hear the music.
“It’s a great opportunity to give back, and help get the village and specifically the kids in the holiday spirit,” he said.
Corrigan described Operation Santa as a rite of passage, especially for the junior members, who get rotated between different companies on different nights.
Lastly, Corrigan says Santa always helps the kids prepare for Christmas by leaving them with a few tips.
“Santa always makes sure they’re ready,” Corrigan said. “He tells them to go to bed early and always leave his favorite milk and cookies.”