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It takes a Santa’s Village

By: Pauline Nevins
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“Neither snow nor rain nor …” begins the motto.

Not once had the Friends of the Colfax Library cancelled their annual Santa’s Village. Even that year the snow was so high that the parade was cancelled, Santa still jumped on his sleigh and slid into town.

This Winterfest, on Dec. 10, though, it was touch and go.

I began paying as much attention to the Dec. 10 weather forecast as my husband does to football scores, hoping for a winning pick. One day, the prediction for Saturday was 30 percent chance of rain, another day it was torrential rain and wind, and yet another claimed dry by the afternoon! 

I was on elf duty.  Was this thing on or off? Emails flew. One contact said the whole Winterfest was off – no parade and definitely no fireworks.

On Dec. 10, I woke to the sound of pelting rain and howling wind.  My husband, Jim, a reluctant volunteer at the best of times, said we should cancel.  “Nobody is going to show up in this,” he said.  He’s a retired construction supervisor used to calling the shots when it came to the weather.  If it was raining, you called your men off – no humming and hawing.

“I’m going to be at Roy Tom’s Plaza at noon as planned.  We’ll see what happens.”  This was Chief Elf and Friends’ President Heidi Johnson speaking.  I got the message.

Despite his reluctance, Jim had joined volunteers Ron and Joe, and the three were staying dry under the gazebo on Main Street when I arrived.   They stood among the boxes of decorations and rolled wind-break tarpaulins painted with Christmas scenes by local artist Foxey McCleary. The four of us stared at the rain still coming down sideways.  We were joined by Mayor Tom Parnham and a young man named Travis. They had good news.

The owner of the Old Pharmacy building across the street had offered her place for the Santa event. Sherri Peterson pushed hard against the wind to open the door.   I expected to enter a small empty shop. Instead, what lay before me was a room so long I could barely see the back wall – over two thousand square feet Sherri would tell me. A lighted Christmas tree stood in one corner, almost touching the 15-foot ceiling. There was a comfy sofa and an easy chair beside the tree – perfect for Santa and Mrs. Claus. On the back wall was a neon light flashing “Uncle Sonny’s.”  Sherri spent a year converting this space into an event center that she has named in honor of her late uncle.

I was glad I wasn’t wearing my elf shoes. Now I could jump for joy without tripping over the curled toes.  We would be inside, out of the rain and the wind. What’s more, and this should have been my first thought, so would the kids!

Heidi arrived along with the rest of the elves -- Sue, Teri, Gunda, Gayle, Barbara and Joe. They cheerfully hauled bags and boxes out of car trunks into the dry, welcoming space.

Kevin, with his wife, Karen, assisting, set up the camera tripod. With the flair of Francis Ford Coppola, Kevin squinted through the lens and orchestrated the movement of just about everything. Santa was positioned on the couch. He would, as he has for 15 years, listen patiently to the whispers of awed children.

Mrs. Claus, who it’s rumored is overly friendly with the mayor, perched on a chair to Santa’s left, bags and baskets of gifts at her feet, including a gargantuan bin of candy-filled bags delivered by the Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce. What would we do with all this stuff if nobody showed up?

Kelley Bernard-Garrett popped in while we were still setting up. Kelley’s first visit with Santa was a decade earlier. Her eldest son, Jayden, was 5 then and now 15. Ethan was then 3 and now 13.  Three more children joined the Bernard-Garrett family: Ashlen, 8; Carson, 4; and Evlyn, 3. Kelley promised to return with all five of her children.  We knew at least one family would show up.

Vendors began setting up outside. Then we heard the parade would go on and the fireworks would go off. The Soroptomists’ Soup Kitchen at the Sierra Vista Community Center was packed. With a little encouragement from Mayor Tom, even the Christmas tree would be lit. Game on!

The families came. There were infants swaddled around their mothers, babies in strollers and toddlers clutching dads’ hands. Only a few cried when thrust at Santa. Most children squeaked out a grin and some smiled so sweetly that onlookers let out collective “aah’s.”

What was that saying again? “Neither snow nor rain nor scary clown could stop Santa’s Village from opening in town” or something like that. 

Resident Pauline Nevins is author of the memoir, ‘”Fudge’ The Downs and Ups of a Biracial, Half-Irish British War Baby.”