Pam Dudding Contributing writer
There is little that can compare to a child’s gleeful grin when they see Santa and hear his ‘HOHOHO’ during the holidays. When this happens, children usually become intently mesmerized by his every word.
Kids sometimes cannot contain themselves, as they jump, squeal with excitement and then run and jump into his lap (but not this year).
When the annual parade was canceled in Craig this year, a few patrons shared their concern for a little something for the kids.
Surrounding counties all had a drive-by parade and several happenings that they could go to, including the Starlite Drive-In showing Christmas movies all month long.
I personally felt that something could be done for our kids in Craig to get to see and talk with Santa.
After inquiring and going through multiple individuals to get approved by the COVID-19 team, I asked Santa Claus (Sammy Huffman), if he would consider sitting on Main Street and have a drive-by visit with the understanding that kids would stay in their vehicles.
From there, Santa and “Mrs. Claus” decided that maybe a little more could be done, and we went to work. Quickly, it snowballed into a wonderful event at the Craig County Fairgrounds.
The Gideons, Ken and Carol Looney, greeted everyone at the back gate and gave them a Bible with a candy cane and directed them up to the people who were guiding the vehicles towards the stage where Santa Claus sat front and center awaiting every girl and boy with anticipation.
Myself, Sammy’s daughter and Sam decorated the stage with a live Christmas tree, lights and large packages that held the toys for the kids.
David Givens of Dave’s Live Sounds added special lighting onto each wall and the front trees which made the entire area glow with Christmas cheer.
He also played Christmas music during the evening, giving the atmosphere a special shot of a happy Santaville.
Mike’s Dog House was set up for anyone who wanted a great hot dog.
At the side exit gate, The Lighthouse Baptist Church hosted a live nativity with animals, celebrating the “reason for the season,” the birthday of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.
Kids enjoyed the scene as parents sat a little longer in their vehicles allowing them to look and talk to the animals.
Angie Guthrie and Craig Botetourt provided over 100 bags of candy and all but two were given out by Lee Looney and his church members.
Shari Winebarger and some of her friends paid for and provided a white leather throne for Santa to sit in which had large, jeweled buttons. Santa had a comfortable seat which he sat in for over two hours, talking to every kid (and even some adults that he recognized, telling them they had better be good or they would get coal).
Santa was dressed in his best suit, seated on his special throne. He was ready for all the kids. The parents were on time as they were waiting in line when the opening 5 o’clock hour struck.
One by one, the vehicles drove up to the stage. Kids faces lit up as well as the adults. Some vehicles only had adults as they wanted to see Santa too.
Kids were able to get out and stand on Santa’s HOHOHO rug, which was below the stage and talk with him.
Eyes seemed fixed as they listened to him talk and had lengthy conversations back and forth.
Santa asked if they had been good, how old they were, what they were going to leave him to eat, adding for them to make sure they left milk too. He also asked what they wanted for Christmas and talked to them about each toy.
Santa joked around with a few of the kids, telling them to make his favorite cookies.
He added, “Leave extras so that I can share them with my reindeer as they have to travel all the way around the world. They need that energy.”
He was quick to say with a smile, “But don’t give me that sugar-free stuff. Even my reindeer won’t eat sugar-free cookies.”
He did put an extra hint in for peanut butter cookies though.
Santa had a bell in his hand that he would occasionally ring and sometimes share with the kids that he had to be very careful and not ring it too much. “If I ring this bell a lot, my reindeer will fly down and pick me up and take me back to the North Pole, and I’m not ready to go yet.”
Their eyes would glance into the sky to see if they could see them. Even Santa hesitated a few times, saying he thought he heard them.
The kids excitedly told him about Legos, Frozen Dolls and dollhouses, LOL Babies, ponies, Baby Alive, Barbie House and cars, BB guns, video games, bikes and lot of electronics.
Santa told each kid, “Now you make sure you go to sleep so that I can bring all the toys you want so then you can wake up and see all those toys under your tree.” The kids then grinned so big and jumped with excitement.
After Santa finished, his little helper elf, Will Huffman, handed them a toy from the many toy boxes.
Also, Maci Winebarger handed each family a special book to take home and read.
Some parents took pictures, and some forgot as they got wrapped up in Santa’s conversations.
“A special thanks goes out to the many who helped us to make this Christmas a little more special and fun too,” the team shared.
A request was sent out just two weeks prior asking if each could help just a little, hoping to get several, so no one had to donate much.
The following gave of their finances towards purchasing the toys: Kevin and Melissa Altizer, Danny and Betty Kendall, George Foster, Pam Dudding, New Castle Christian Church, Grace Assembly, Craig Valley Gospel Fellowship, Cornerstone Church – New Castle and Mountain View Baptist in Catawba.
Over 120 toys were purchased, including several binoculars that Timmy Snider donated.
Additional thanks go to Rick Dudding, Wayne “Big Foot” Belcher and Cole Winebarger for helping to guide traffic.
Several people had hoped to decorate their vehicles and two floats, but none were able to make it.
However, parents were very appreciative of the efforts and the safe setup that helped to make their kids Christmas special to see Santa and many relayed their gratitude that evening and the next day on Facebook.
When all was done and the stage was empty once again, the thought was unanimous, “we will do this again next year, just a bit bigger.”