The Lions Club Santa parade will be held on a Saturday this year for the first time so the parade will be combined with the holiday bonfire event on the riverfront. File photo: Katie Blasl

Two centerpiece holiday celebrations in Riverhead are combining this year to create one big festive downtown event.

The Lions Club Santa Parade and the town’s holiday bonfire and tree-lighting will for the first time be held on the same day.

Mark your calendars for Saturday, Dec. 9. The parade steps off at 3 p.m. followed by the bonfire on the riverfront starting at 4. (Rain/snow date: Sunday, Dec. 10.)

This year marks the 66th annual parade presented by the Lions Club. The parade is usually followed by a chance to visit with Santa on the Riverhead Town showmobile. This year instead, children will be invited to visit with Santa for free photos in his gingerbread house on the riverfront.

After the parade, all are invited to enjoy the 18th annual bonfire on the riverfront for holiday music, caroling and free hot chocolate.

2011_1211_bonfireThe Lions Club traditionally held the Santa parade on a Sunday afternoon — typically the first Sunday in December. The town’s holiday bonfire has always been on a Saturday evening.

Organizers of the two events decided it makes sense to hold them on the same day, to create a large, family-friendly holiday festival downtown.

“It was about making a better overall holiday event for the community and combining resources and volunteer power,” BID executive director Diane Tucci said. There’s a limited pool of resources, both human and financial, she said. Combining the events will maximize those resources. “working together of course at the heart of everything I do,” Tucci said.

“We’ll have one nice big day for everyone to come out and enjoy,” Tucci said.

‘Santacon is off’

Riverhead’s first-ever Santacon in December 2014 was one of the town’s first major pub crawls. File photo: Peter Blasl

A third downtown event that’s been held in December for the last three years will not be returning.

“Santacon is off,” said Bob Castaldi, an owner of the Suffolk Theater, which has organized and sponsored the popular holiday pub crawl since 2014.

“A lot of people loved it, some people didn’t,” Castaldi said. Ultimately it was a scheduling issue, he said. December is a very busy month and theater management decided against hosting it this year.

Santacon raised about $10,000 each year for local charities, he said. Revenues from the sale of Santacon bracelets — which entitled wearers to specials at downtown restaurants and bars — were donated to charitable causes.

Castaldi added that a final decision has not yet been made on whether the theater will organize another fundraising downtown pub crawl, Leprecon, that it’s held the past two years in March.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.