Sleigh actually needed?

By on November 25, 2014


Andy Fasnacht

Andy Fasnacht

OK, I realize I am kind of breaking my own rule by talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving but you have to at least be a little giddy at the prospect of some snow on the ground for Santa’s big arrival in Ephrata Friday, don’t you?
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go back and research how many times we have had snow, or at least snow on the ground, for Santa’s annual downtown arrival. As far as I know, the event has always taken place the weekend after Thanksgiving, but again, I didn’t get a chance to research. When I started at The Review in 1986, the event was always held on a Saturday afternoon. Prior to that, we know that there was actually a full-blown parade to usher in the big guy (see the retro ad in the Years Ago section on A-15). Those parades of the ‘70s (and before) must have been quite the spectacle. The advertisements talk of large cartoon balloons which seem to be of the level we see in New York City during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade each year. There were multiple marching bands and it certainly almost seemed to rival the Ephrata Fair parade in many ways.
By the time I started covering the event in the early ‘90s, the Saturday celebration was on a much smaller scale &tstr; getting Santa off the Royer building (or after ‘93 for a few years, the new Brossman Business Complex), followed by a small processional down Main to his home, which was then in the train station.
Sometime later in the ‘90s…or the zeros, as we call them…the event was switched to a Friday night and has remained in that format ever since. I give a big thumbs up to that decision. For our family, the timing was perfect as my children (born in ‘94 and ‘98) were able to spend all those magical years with that Friday night tradition. In fact, I told one of the organizers the other day that my kids still like coming down at age 16 and 20 (at least that’s what I keep telling myself anyway). But seriously, we do enjoy this great tradition and a chilly night just seems to romanticize the moment more than the afternoon. There is something about the snugly cold of the night, the lights, the songs, a hot cup of cocoa in one hand and a chocolate chip cookie in the other that just puts everyone in the best mood. My only issue with this event is actually tied to its popularity. Clearly one of the best, if not the best, attended downtown events each year &tstr; it always seemed a shame that they often couldn’t keep the masses on Main Street much past the 45 minutes or so of caroling, tree-lighting and the landing of Santa on the street. If you didn’t have kiddos who wanted to brave the long line to visit the man in red that night, chances are you may have popped in for a bite to eat somewhere or picked up something at an open store but shortly after, you were probably on your way home.
Years ago, we actually tried to keep the fun going at home by making it an evening for frozen junk food, s’mores by the fire and the first Christmas show of the season. This year however, the Ephrata Merchants have kicked it up a notch and I am pretty sure we will be spending quite a bit more time uptown. Sorry Ethan, but put the buffalo hot dog sticks back in the freezer!
For starters, they were able to do something they wanted to do from the first year of the event and that is close Main Street. For the past 15 years, or however old the event is, all the activities on both sides of Main Street meant large groups of people had to travel back and forth across Friday night 322 traffic. Having Santa coming off ENB headquarters has certainly helped keep people to one side but organizers certainly wanted to take advantage of the plaza and visitor’s center for a large scale event. While the fire police did a good job over the years getting folks across Main and back, having it closed during the event should make a much better overall experience for everyone…including Santa!
Another big improvement this year will be additional food options. While we always encourage visitors to patronize their local restaurants and stores whenever possible, including on this night, for these types of events, having additional, new food and drink options &tstr;especially those geared to an event such as this &tstr; will always help draw larger crowds.
But the change that perhaps has me most excited of all is a twist on old tradition &tstr; free movies at the Main! While in the old days, the Main would open its doors on Christmas morning to all the town’s children for free cartoons and candy, this time it will be an evening showing that certainly is going to appeal to the adults as well. One of my all-time holiday favorites is “White Christmas” and that’s what Steve Brown will be putting up on the big screen at our hometown theater Friday night. I am just wondering how early you will have to go to get a seat! While it will be awesome to see this new feature of “Santa Night” be a big success, I also want to make sure our crew can all get in. Though my kids sometimes need an arm twist to watch the oldies, I think the festive spirit will overcome and we won’t have much trouble getting them to go to the movie. Of course the free popcorn should help too!
So you see, everything is set up for a very special evening Friday. If all goes as many are predicting, we will get pelted with a decent amount of snow Wednesday. Thanksgiving Day should then be cool enough to keep the white stuff around for a few days, setting up for what looks like an almost perfect weather day/night for this event, with highs in the mid 30s and little chance of precipitation. Having that coating of snow around town will make for Rockwell-like surroundings not to mention a great landing area on the roof of ENB for Santa, his sleigh and reindeer.
In the meantime, despite all the buzz about the snow, Black Friday shopping and events like this, please let us not lose sight of what we need to do between now and then. This is indeed a time to pause and give thanks for the many blessings here and in this world. Certainly we know it is far from perfect and there is much to be fixed but doesn’t it seem like Thanksgiving is the time to focus on what’s good?
As I said, I did violate my own rules by spending much of this column talking about something Christmas-related before we have hit Thanksgiving &tstr; but it’s something unique to this year. While I won’t be putting on any holiday tunes on the radio or dusting off any Christmas DVDs before Friday, can we let our holiday spirit soar a bit with the prospect of a snow-covered town welcoming St. Nick for a full evening of fun and merriment?
So just after you find the snow shovel and salt, take a moment to also get your festive sweaters and caps &tstr; along with the preliminary Christmas lists and your best caroling voice ready to go for a big night Friday downtown.
“I’m dreaming….

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