By Pat Jenkins
“Anything for the kids,” Harry Everett, aka Santa Claus, said from behind his costume beard as he waited for the next vist from a youngster.
Eatonville was brimming last Saturday with holiday sights and sounds, including the squealing of young children accepting a candy cane and posing for photos with Santa inside the Visitor Center on a sunlit but bitterly cold afternoon.
Kids began arriving with their parents shortly after the start of a four-hour time slot for face time with Santa, a prrelude to a tree lighting at 5 o’clock and the annual, Eatonville Chamber of Commerce-sponsored Christmas Parade at 6.
Lavern Ausbun was at Everett’s side in the role of an elf. “We’ve been doing this together for years,” she said.
Elsewhere around the town, people were in the spirit of giving and shopping.
At the corner of Washington Avenue and Center Street, Phil Newkirk sat in the frigid open air with an Eatonville food bank van, trying to keep warm while accepting donations of food as part of the Fill the Food Bank.
“People are generous,” he said, motioning to the boxes of food stacked inside the van. He’d been there since 8 a.m. and had another hour to go before the 3 p.m. cutoff, when the donations would be driven to the food bank operated by Eatonville Family Agency. Newkirk’s wife, Dawn, was one of the organizers of the drive, which included door-to-door collections by volunteers who started started ringing doorbells in the morning.
Just down Center, a holiday bazaar featuring the handmade wares of local crafters was attracting shoppers at the Mill Village center. Judy Noe was selling her knitted hats, blouses and wash cloths. A hat takes about 90 minutes to make, a scarf three hours, she said as she knitted a wash cloth.
A table away, Kris Johnson was selling custom-made jewelry and other gift items and praising the bazaar as a fun time and a good way to shop local. Johnson said she hopes the holiday bazaar, which marked its third year as a holiday attraction, can grow into a year-round opportunity for crafters and customers. Johnson liked the “laid back” atmosphere last weekend, which was accented by live music from Cool Daddy and the Hot Flashes and vendors casually greeting and chatting with browsers.
Meanwhile, a few blocks away, Nancy Mettler, who organizes the Santa’s Bikes drive every other year, gratefully surveyed some of the 100-plus bicycles donated this year for underprivileged children. With a few more donations expected this week, plus $200 in cash donations that she’ll use to buy two or three more, Mettler said the final tally of bikes would be 110. The most in any previous year was 79.
“It’s amazing what so many people are willing to do,” Metter said as she waited for a flatbed truck loaned by Eatonvlle Towing to arrive and haul the bikes to a building where they’ll be stored until they’re given to families Dec. 20 by the Family Agency.
Heartwarming stories behind the bike drive are numerous, Mettler related. Some examples: A boy about 10 years old opened the door at Mountain Fitness, the Mettler-owned business that serves as a hub for the drive, ran in and tossed a wadded-up $5 bill on the counter and exclaimed, “Buy a bike.” And as quickly as he ran in, he was out the door. The local catechism kindergarten-through-fifth-graders sponsored a donut and coffee hour, with the proceeds going for bicycles. And coffee drinkers dropped enough money into a collection can at Gypsy Wagon Espresso to pay for three bikes.
Not everyone can afford to buy a bike, so many of the donations come in small amounts that Mettler said are really the heart of the effort.