WHEN SMITHVILLE WAS GETTING RESTORED, I REMEMBER "TRACY THE CONDUCTOR," AGONIZING FOR MONTHS OVER HARD TO FIND LOCOMOTIVE PARTS. IN THE MEAN TIME, MY THREE-YEAR OLD ANDREW OPTED TO LIVE THE LIFE OF HIS "THOMAS THE TRAIN," FRIENDS BY WALKING... MANY, MANY TIMES, EVERY INCH OF ITS VACANT RAILROAD TRACKS.
In addition to Smithville being an important destination for travelers on their way to the shore, golfing or the casinos, it has maintained its greatness by attracting huge year-round crowds to special events. The Irish Festival, Haunted Halloween, Independence Day Parade, Oktoberfest, May Fest and this past Friday's arrival of Santa are some of those highlights. TO WELCOME SANTA AND SPICE-UP THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT, THE LAKE AND ITS WHARF ARE LIT UP.
We took Andrew to see Santa come to Smithville, twelve years ago. And while the deeper significance of the occasion might be lost on four-year olds, the special experience of coming out after dark, freezing and seeing the spectacle, can last a lifetime.
This week, my son recreated this joy by being a part of the festivities. He appeared as Batman with a group of other characters employed by, "FAIRYTALE ENTERTAINMENT," to fluff-up the crowd before Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived.IN OCTOBER AT A FAIR IN ABSECON, BATMAN SITED THE SLOPPINESS FACTOR AND ADVISED A RANDOM YOUTH TO THE ADVANTAGES OF ICE CREAM IN A CUP OVER A CONE.
Santa's arrival is aimed at younger kids however it is popular with children of all ages. On Friday night, many families, to assure easier parking, came early and had dinner somewhere in Smithville first. In preparation for the extravaganza, one of the parking lots had been cordoned-off. About an hour before hand, a semi-circle of people began to form outside the partitioned area. Then to entertain the waiting crowd, teenagers such as my son came into the circle, in character costumes. They all braved the 30 degree elements but Cinderella had it worst because she wore a sleeveless dress and open toed shoes.IF YOU SQUINT, THAT'S SUE AND I REVELING IN THE RAUCOUS FUN FEST.
The characters were given a rock star reception as they created a party atmosphere by interacting with their adoring fans. In addition to Batman; Cinderella, Woody from, "TOY STORY" and Belle from, "BEAUTY AND THE BEAST," appeared. Other characters such as; Mickey Mouse, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were provided by another talent agency.
To the delight and relief of the masses, the ever-punctual Santa arrived exactly at 6:30. First, the scene was cleverly set-up as a distance siren alerted everyone that something special was about to happen. The blaring calling card turned everyone's attention through the barren trees to an intense, bright light. The alarm pierced the cold night air as it neared while baritone car horns added to the excitement. Silhouetted through the woods, a hook and ladder slowly came into view. The hordes were now primed and nearly delirious with anticipation. Just when you thought the noise level couldn't get louder, the crowd gave out an emphatic cheer as the fire truck turned into the lot.
Parents pointed skyward to the top of the fire engine's extended ladder. And there he was, the symbol of endless possibilities, lit by a spot-light, three stories up. To see that jolly soul perched so high together with Mrs. Claus, it was easy to get choked up by happiness as they waved to the thrilled mob below. The illusion of flight was completed when fire truck did a victory lap around the parking lot. It stopped at the far end. The crow's nest bucket was slowly lowered to street level. I was directly in front of them as a firefighter opened the safety gate and allowed Mrs. Claus out first then Santa. The frenzy got better as the Claus's meet-n-greet included shaking the multitude of multi-cultural mini-hands.
SANTA THEN EARNED HIS GLOBAL ICON STATUS BY LISTENING TO KIDS EXPRESS THEIR INNER MOST NEEDS AND THEN HE RESPONDED WITH MESSAGES OF POSITIVISM.
The climax of the evening came when the Claus's led the other characters into the mosh-pit-like crush of the audience. I got to watch my scion mingle with the kids, answer questions and pose for pictures.
This sold-out breakfast included two seatings of 300 people. Santa's opened the proceedings with his usual announcement that he's having trouble getting down some chimneys. He reminded all the kids to limit the cookies they leave for him, to three. And always, please, please, please, NO OATMEAL!
When I saw Andrew's satisfaction at the end I said, "If Karl Marx ever entertained kids as a character, nobody would have ever heard of Communism." Then I added, "Hopefully, this success will spark additional work for you and your comrades." When Santa hears those pearls of wisdom, maybe he'll want to high-five me again.