GREEN: Children almost jumped out of their parents’ arms when they heard the sirens. Over the horizon they could see flashing lights as the fire engine crept closer to the stage. But there was no fire. There was only Santa Claus.
When the fire engine stopped, an armada of photographers moved in on Mr. Claus. He managed to maneuver through the pictures and make his way to the stage. Once there, he spoke with the Superintendent of Parks and Recreation Michael Elkins before joining the Green Intermediate Choir in a rendition of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells.
Then the fireworks began.
Santa Claus was the guest of honor Saturday at the city of Green’s annual Christmas-at-Town Park. His arrival and the fireworks were the culmination of a series of holiday festivities that took place at the Central Administration Building, Kids Country, Akron General Health and Wellness Center and the Green branch of the Akron Public Library.
For the children, it was an excellent chance to get some free cookies and milk, take a trip on a trolley and meet Santa and all his pals.
Ray Maynard’s children were no exception. He brought two sets of twins to the park. Five-year-old William Maynard won a $10 gift card to Target for participating in the Rudolph Run, an event hosted by city.
Maynard said he brings his family to Christmas-at-Town Park every year. He believes that it gives people a chance to communicate with people they might not otherwise encounter.
“You get to talk to your neighbors and people you don’t regularly see,” Maynard said. “I’ve had three or four people come up to me that I haven’t seen in a while.”
Deanna Wood’s daughter, seven-year-old Elissa Wood, won first place in the Rudolph Run contest by dressing up as a Dr. Seuss character. Unfortunately, she lost her costume while running.
For Elkins, these were also the defining moments of the day. He said it was a chance for the community to experience a sense of brotherhood he thinks it needed.
“The original idea was to get the community together to kick off the holiday season,” Elkins said. “But it has evolved into a means of helping other people.”
The bulk of the help Elkins is referring to comes from the Dane Foundation’s Kandy Kane Xpress Holiday Festival. It took place in the new Akron General Health and Wellness center. A few of its main attractions included a train ride, tree auctions and a chance to see Santa Claus. The president and founder of the Dane Foundation Lowery Lockard expanded on the foundations place in the community.
“The people we help are everyday individuals with disabilities, who don’t have families,” Lockard said. “They would not have any Christmases at all if our organization wasn’t here.”
The inside of Akron General was filled with nearly every Christmas character created. Its halls were run by gingerbread men, reindeer, elves and talking candy canes. Once you passed the talking cane, you arrived at the realm of Santa Claus.
According to Lockard, the biggest fundraising event was the Christmas tree auctions. She said they sold little plain trees for $25. The buyers then decorated the trees and turned them over to the foundation for them auction off.
Elkin’s picture for the day’s events has altered from last year. But he said he wants the Christmas-at-Town Park to become increasingly popular over the years.
“The vision that I have for Christmas-at-Town Park is that on the first Saturday in December Town Park Boulevard in Green is the destination place for people to come to,” Elkins said.