You won’t find it listed in the Old Farmer’s Almanac. You can’t judge by the wooly caterpillar. Even our good friend Ed Buckner can’t make the prediction. But according to Stephanie Jones at the Benton Parks & Recreation Department, “We know it’s going to snow on December 3.”
These may seem like strong words from the supervisor of parks programs in the city, but Stephanie states her case in a confident manner without hesitation or reluctance. How does she know it will snow? Because she has a weather machine.
On December 3, the Benton Parks & Recreation Department will host the second annual “Santa in the Park” event in the Gene Moss Building at Tyndall Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The first Santa in the Park was held in 2015 and was described by all involved as a great success. More than 300 children between the ages of 3 and 12 visited with Santa and posed for a photograph jolly old St. Nick and his wife. Children who came to Tyndall Park for the first event were treated to crafts, cookies and a carriage ride in addition to the chance to pass along their wish list to Santa Claus. A “Story time with Santa” segment had been set aside as well, but the number of attendees was so great, time simply ran out. All in all, everyone from children to parents to staff were pleased and very happy with the result.
Recognizing that the variety of festivals and other holiday offerings for families in the community is growing, Benton parks director John Eckart and his staff began several months ago looking for ways to make the 2016 edition of Santa in the Park an even bigger event.
What do children like as Christmas draws near, they asked? That was easy. A chance to see Santa, sit on his lap and have a picture made with him. A direct inquiry was made to Santa’s headquarters and, fortunately, December 3 was the only open date on his calendar.
What about cookies? The staff will have a special “Cookie Decorating Station” where children may decorate plain cookies with sprinkles, frosting and other delicious treats. When the cookie is finished, each child may take it home with them, if it isn’t eaten on the spot.
What about coloring? A “Craft Station” will be set up for children to color and choose from two or three other craft projects to do and take home.
All this activity will surely arouse thirst among participants and parents alike. A “Hot Cocoa and Coffee Station” should hit the spot.
If all this activity wasn’t enough, the staff have planned a few more exciting things to do.
A horse-drawn carriage will take children and adults on a stroll through parts of Tyndall Park.
Under normal circumstances, all the activities planned would make for a full day. However, as Stephanie phrased it, “We just wanted to add things that would make Santa in the Park stand out. We wanted it to have a different feel than the normal.”
But what about the weather machine? What is it and why is it important to Santa in the Park? Here is where it gets really interesting.
John recalls a conversation with Stephanie. “She said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a snow machine?’ We looked into it, got it booked and so now we are having snow on December 3. It will be something fun for the kids.”
When asked how the snow machine will be used, John and Stephanie wouldn’t say exactly, but both smiled and agreed that it will be a lot of fun for the kids to enjoy.
Santa in the Park is free. There is no charge for admission to the Gene Moss Building, no fee for the cookies, crafts, coloring, cocoa, coffee, carriage rides, photos, or even the snow. A big crowd is expected, a problem of which the department is grateful.
What those who attend will walk away with is a fun time, smiles galore and memories that will last a lifetime. Priceless.