MILTON — As Matt Ferry opens the garage door at his Milton home, he flashes a smile when he takes a glimpse of approximately 20 Vespas — scooters with 150cc engines — which fill the garage.
“I have arthritis in my wrist, so I sold my motorcycles,” he explained. “These are so much more fun. They’re automatics.”
Retired from USP Allenwood, Ferry said he typically buys wrecked Vespas and restores them. The hobby started about nine years ago.
“I’ve paid $400 (for Vespas),” he said. “There’s one (I bought) for $4,000.”
The first year he owned a Vespa, as a joke Ferry decided to dress like Santa Claus and ride throughout the community.
“You put a 250-pound guy on a scooter, that’s funny,” he said, with a laugh. “I did it for the humorous factor.”
Each year, as Ferry acquired more Vespas, he started to be joined on his rides by friends — primarily former co-workers from the prison — who would also dress as Santa and his elves.
His family is involved too, with Ferry’s 13-year-old son Max typically riding with him. His wife Carla steers another Vespa, dressed as Mrs. Claus.
The group members have adopted the name Scooter Santa Brigade, and started their own Facebook page.
On Black Friday, Nov. 27, the group will leave Milton at 10 a.m. on their first ride of the season.
“We randomly ride between (Milton) and Selinsgrove,” Ferry said, adding that the group typically hands out candy canes.
This year, some individuals they meet will receive special golden tickets which entitle them to a prize basket.
Ferry currently has numerous baskets filled with prizes for children at his home. Those who receive the golden tickets will be able to claim a prize basket by contacting the Scooter Santa Brigade Facebook page.
In addition to the Black Friday ride, Ferry said smaller groups of Santas will be cruising throughout the area through Christmas on the Vespas, handing out candy canes and golden tickets.
“Any weekend that we can (ride), I’ll have six riders on a regular basis,” Ferry said, noting that drivers must have a motorcycle license to operate a Vespa.
While he “hates” the commercialism of Christmas, Ferry said leading the Scooter Santa Brigade is a way to give to others during the holidays.
He enjoys the response the riders get from those they encounter, regardless of the age.
“There’s people that follow you... to take your picture,” Ferry said.
Aside from the holiday rides dressed as Santa, Ferry drives his Vespas throughout the year. He noted that they’re mechanically reliable and get 60 to 80 miles-per-gallon of gasoline.
“I ride year round,” he said. “I’ll ride from here to Mount Pleasant Mills. You can keep up with traffic.”
Ferry noted that he’s thankful for a variety of community members and businesses which have donated items to be given away this year on his holiday rides.