Tree lighting at Shore Road Park ignites seasonal spirit in Bay Ridge

Love ya, daddy! Lucky Matt Bracco gets holiday hugs from his wee ones, Katie and Matthew.
Brooklyn Daily
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Bright-eyed Paulie Leonard, 6, perched on Santa’s lap at Shore Road Gardens and told him his holiday wish list, the words tumbling out like a waterfall.

“I’ll be good all year if you do!” promised the boy, gazing sweetly at the pot-bellied man in the red suit holding court in the gazebo on Shore Road near 89th Street where a tree lighting flicked on the Yuletide cheer in Bay Ridge on Nov. 30, complete with gifts and holiday refreshments.

The prospect of a merry mingle with Kris Kringle — organized by the Shore Road Garden Council of Shore Road Parks Conservancy, with music by the Guild for Exceptional Children — drew more revelers than ever, according to Saint Nick.

“It was mobbed!” chuckled Conservancy Vice President Chip Cafiero, a grandfather who has tooled around town as the legendary leprechaun for more than a decade.

This year, pint-sized techies stuffed his ears with requests for Xboxes, equaled only by appeals for puppies, said Cafiero, who gave out coloring books and crayons, and scored a gift of his own when his 2-year-old granddaughter, Charlise, recognized him through his disguise!

“Now, she thinks grandpa is Santa!” laughed the guy from the North Pole, who has found himself on the hot seat before.

One time, a girl brought him a steaming mug of chocolate and cookies, insisting that he devour them on the spot — a tall task which the good sport said he swallowed along with a few straggly, snow-white hairs!

Cafiero also had a message for Scrooges looking to maul Santa’s mystique.

“He makes Christmas what it is for the little ones!” he dished.

Who would know better than him?

Reach reporter Shavana Abruzzo at or by calling (718) 260-2529.
Updated 1:47 am, December 7, 2011
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