Santa, not shopping, draws crowd in Lancaster

November 28, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

LANCASTER - The Friday after Thanksgiving has long been known as Black Friday, the hectic shopping day when everyone runs out at the crack of dawn in hopes of catching too-good-too-miss sale items and retailers can go from the red into the black.

In Garrard County, it's also known for another long-standing tradition - Santa's first visit of the year.

But times do change. Like many small downtowns, the merchants in Lancaster aren't as plentiful as they used to be back in the days before big box stores stole the customers away.

But shopping isn't the only thing that can draw a crowd on the day after Thanksgiving. Santa still holds his own with the younger set and their parents.

Decked out in his dress uniform, Fire Chief Kenneth Adams watched the crowd gather in the front of the Garrard County Courthouse to wait for Santa to arrive in the bright red fire engine.


Adams recalled that Lancaster's tradition started back in the 60s and has since turned into a joint effort between the fire department, the city, and the fiscal court.

"Oh yeah. It was a big, big deal. Back then there were more merchants down here and they all participated and stayed open late. There were even bands that played," Adams said.

Adams went on to add that it seemed everyone in town came out in the old days, but now some of the sparkle is off the event.

Just don't tell that to the kids gathered on the courthouse steps.

"Santa's coming, Santa's coming, Santa's coming" chanted 7-year-old Johnathan McQuerry.

Soon, many kids joined in and there was a considerable tune coming from the crowd, even if it wasn't quite in harmony. It must have been contagious. Even moms and dads and grandparents were suddenly a bit more alert with anticipation.

Chief Adams stood between two of the youngest members of the fire department, Chris Davis and Jordan Davis, both 21 and both equally confused as to whether they're related or not.

"These two can tell you about sitting on Santa's lap. That's how long this tradition has gone on. They remember," Adams said.

Sirens signaled that the red suited man was on his way. The kids all jumped up, hopping and bouncing as they sought their first glimpse of the man of the hour.

"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! Hey everyone!" Santa yelled from atop the fire truck as it slowly maneuvered into the blocked off parking lot, with lights flashing.

Line forms at courthouse

After Santa, portrayed by Asst. Fire Chief Louis Grimes, climbed down and made his way through his crowd of fans and into the courthouse, a single-file line spontaneously formed at the front door.

Adams stood in the back of the room with several other fireman. They watched the crowd with a quiet satisfaction.

The kids lined up were very serious about their goals for the night; each came prepared with an abbreviated version of their wish list.

"I want a Polly Pocket, and a ...." Cassidy Watkins, 4, said as she looked into Santa's face.

But her friend, Brittney Rousey, 7, was sitting on Santa's other knee and couldn't wait her turn.

"And I want a Love Cub, a Love Cub," Brittney repeated slowly, apparently in hopes that Santa was mentally jotting this down.

Cassidy eyed Brittney briefly, then continued on with her list.

Not everyone was as ecstatic to see Santa up close and share their gift list.

"No, no. NO! I don't wanna, let me go ...." muttered Greg Barnes, 2, as he continued a rigorous attempt to escape back to his mom, who was appealing to him to sit for just "one little second" so she could get his picture.

Hannah Wren, 2, paused for a second to eye the stranger she was being handed over to. Judging from the look on her face, it was debatable whether she was going to sit for a spell or cry out for her help. But Santa pulled out a bag of candy and Hannah's mood brightened. She relaxed back into his arm and started picking through the goodies.

Even after an hour, the line stretched on as kids and their camera-toting parents awaited their turn with Santa.

Adults, too, had their wish lists.

Garrard Judge Executive E.J. Hasty said he probably wouldn't sit on Santa's lap but he might whisper an idea or two into his ear.

Chief Adams wasn't secretive about what he hopes Santa will deliver to the firehouse. He said he didn't care if the new Chevy Suburban came with a bow or not.

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