Patrons at P&G’s in New Paltz share their holiday wishes with Santa

New Paltz Rotary Club members Gavin Craddock and Santa Bob Rich with ten year-old Mason Eyler at the annual Pictures with Santa event held annually at P&G’s restaurant in New Paltz. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

As December unfolds, the holiday transformation which has been evident in department stores since before Halloween begins to take shape in the wider community. Houses and landscape bushes begin to bear luminous fruit, festive events get advertised in media online and off, and Santa Claus — despite all the planning he surely must need to be doing by now — starts appearing in the most amazing places. In the New Paltz area, he’s been spotted among cupcakes, in historic taverns and even jumping out of airplanes.

With the smell of evergreen in the air and endless carols on the wind, local residents young and not quite as young are thinking not about what wishes they have for themselves and others during this time of festivity and for the year ahead. Some patrons to P&G’s — mostly there to visit that aforementioned, red-jacketed fellow with the impressive beard — were willing to talk about those hopes and dreams. Santa was invited to that historic gathering place by members of the local Rotary Club, who took pictures of visitors upon his lap and plan on giving donations collected during the process to St. John Bosco Child & Family Services.


Chris Giangrasso, herself a Rotarian, said that her own wishes were for “more peace and tranquility in the world and good health for all.” She also wouldn’t mind a bracelet, she admitted. Accompanying her was Novamae, who only had one thing she hoped for: “A castle,” she said. “A big castle!”

Rotary Club president Maria Rice could well have cribbed off of Giangrasso’s notes, because she spoke of “peace in the world and hope for tomorrow.” She’s also looking forward to her children and grandchildren coming home for the holidays, she said.

Echoing a familiar theme among adult respondents, David Wightman said he hoped for “Peace, love and understanding.” Shara Wightman, for her part, expressed a hope that was echoed by the sports-team logo on her sweatshirt: “Penn State in the Rose Bowl,” she said. At the table with them was their child Nev, who clearly is her mother’s daughter. “A Penn State cheer leading outfit,” she said, then added, “and Pokemon EX cards.” For those not in the know, those can include mega-evolved Pokemon.

Alex Webb had a more topical wish, “That the electoral college votes for Hillary [Clinton] on December 19,” she said. Richard Webb is eyeing something for his morning rituals, a De Longhi espresso machine. They were joined by three children, one of whom, Felix Webb, isn’t quite talking yet; those at the table theorized he might enjoy some toy trucks. The others were members of the village’s first family, Nina and Rafi Rogers. Nina’s wishes include a red scooter, alarm clock and piping bags for cake decorating, while her brother Rafi had quite the list: a briefcase and computer, lawnmower, wood harmonica, Lego sets, case for his drone and wood for the tree house he’s building with his grandfather. Mayor Tim Rogers, take note.

Jason Harrison was in the same position as Felix Webb; too young to talk, the adults at his table said he delights in the “magic of the season,” especially all the lights, but he’s also expected to get plenty of toys to open. His interpreters, Edna Harrison and Max Mickle, had wishes of the more nostalgic sort. “No presents,” said the elder Harrison, just “good times with family.” Mickle went for the easy out, saying, “pretty much the same as her.”

Another Rotarian in attendance was Toni Hokanson, who is looking forward to meeting new grandchildren this month when she travels to visit family. She said that she wants “a happy, healthy holiday” for her relatives.

Thuy Bonagura had brought Madison and her best friend Chloe for lunch and a Santa visit as part of a bigger girl’s day on the town; next on their list was to get manicures and pedicures. Bonagura said “peace and quiet” was her hope for this year, while Madison has visions of American Girl dolls in her head. Chloe demonstrated an artistic bent with her requests, which included an art easel, toy piano, and slide whistle.

In a down moment, Mr. Claus himself was taken aback by the question of what he wants for the holiday. “Mrs. Claus always has trouble finding out,” he said cryptically.