By Danny Schrafel
What started as a yuletide lark nine years ago has grown into a bona fide Christmastime happening in Northport Village.
There, for the ninth year, nearly 1,000 looked on as revelers threw the switch to light the famous leg lamp in the window of Northport Hardware.
It’s all part of a quirky, “A Christmas Story” movie-inspired tradition accompanied by a kickline performance by the Northport High School Tigerettes, who came into the picture after an ill-fated attempt by Mayor George Doll to get the Rockettes to perform. The Tigerettes danced to “Sleigh Bells,” performed by the Northport High School Symphonic Winds.
“We’re glad the Rockettes from the city declined, because these are better,” Doll said.
Chris Gentry, a student at Fort Salonga Elementary School, threw the switch. Doll pulled Gentry from the crowd three years ago, spotting him as a dead-ringer for young “A Christmas Story” character Ralphie, played by Peter Billingsly.
“It’s really fun to be a part of the family here… I really love to come here every year. It’s a tradition,” Gentry said.
It’s also just about the only place on earth you would expect to see grown men in pink bunny suits – but that’s also a nod to the “Christmas Story” canon. Ralphie got that for Christmas even though he begged for a Red Ryder BB gun – after all, he’d have shot his eye out with that thing.
Electrician Bob Cross said he dresses up in the bunny suit just for fun. His daughter, Molly and their friends, Chris Faltings and Trevor Abbale, dressed up as elves.
“I want to make kids happy,” he said. He’s been doing just that for the last seven years; his daughter will continue the tradition when he hangs up the cotton-tail suit.
In the crowd, “Christmas Story” die-hard Brenainn Flanagan’s bunny suit was nearly outdone by his wife Jaime’s get-up as the Leg Lamp. They’d been dressing for the occasion for the last five years, and were joined this year by their newborn, Rowan.
“We think it’s great – it’s such a fun thing that Northport does,” Jaime said.
The highly anticipated illumination takes place after Doll recited the wild origin story about the lamp, which grows a little more absurd every year as new bits of dubious history are added.