By Rich Bockmann
Trading on the reputation he has earned as the “anti-Claus” or “Santa Claws,” Frank Skala put on his red suit and matching hat that have come to symbolize the holiday season on Bell Boulevard.
“I’m not dressing up. I am Santa Claus,” the 75-year-old professed Saturday night as he led a “White Christmas” sing-along at the Bayside Village Business Improvement District’s holiday lighting ceremony.
“It’s fun,” he said, explaining why for the past 10 years he has looked forward to helping Bell Boulevard welcome the holiday season. “In high school I was a very shy kid, except in chorus where I learned how to sing.”
Skala, head of the Bayside High School Alumni Association and longtime Community Board 11 member, was joined by a handful of students from the school’s current class who helped design the holiday banners the BID plans to fly over the boulevard to promote its businesses.
“We’ve been getting a lot of congratulations,” said John Esguerra, who sipped hot chocolate — compliments of the Bayside Milk Farm — with his classmates outside C.J. Sullivan’s American Grill.
BID Executive Director Lyle Sclair gave a tip of his hat to the bar for providing the electricity that would light the 6-foot-tall menorah and the live Christmas tree for the month of December.
The Bayside HS jazz band played a few holiday tunes as Sclair was joined by a number of community members in flipping on the lights, ushering in the holiday season and, hopefully, a little holiday spending.
“Rock Center has nothing on us!” declared Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and David Fischer, chief of staff to the recently married and honeymooning state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), expressed their warmest holiday wishes.
BID Chairman Dominick Bruccoleri said the season got off to a bumpy start for businesses due to Superstorm Sandy, but said he was hopeful things would pick up.
Sullivan’s did its part with the relief effort by holding a food drive for storm victims and Sacred Heart’s Deacon Bill McNamara said that was just the kind of giving spirit the holidays are all about.
“The holidays remind us of the wonderful joys we experience,” he said. “It’s definitely the season of giving and now people definitely need hope.”
The parish is planning on holding a coat drive for Sandy victims this weekend along with NY Cares, which hopes to collect 200,000 coats this year.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.