Polar Party proves positive
Nearly 150 children joined in to celebrate the holidays at Santa’s Polar Party at the Jefferson County Community Center Saturday night. The party, that replaced the previous years’ “Lunch with Santa” offered several different twists and activities.
Parks Director Jennifer Myers said that the focus of the annual holiday event changed a bit to offer a little variety to the children and their families.
“We had done Lunch with Santa for 20 years,” Myers said. The event formerly had been held at the War Memorial Building in Shepherdstown and moved to the community center upon its completion.
“Over time there have been several other Lunch with Santa options created for folks,” Myers said. “This year we thought we would go with the Polar Party evening theme to begin a new tradition.”
Myers said that this year was an appropriate time to make the change as the Parks department said a sad farewell to Brownie Chrisman earlier in 2015. Chrisman had served as the event Santa for the 20 years it existed. In a teary-eyed moment, Myers dedicated the lighting of the community center’s tree in Chrisman’s memory. His family was on hand to share the moment.
Present at the tree lighting and counting down to the pulling of the switch were Santa and Mrs. Claus and several of their friends: the Grinch, Chippy the Chipmunk, one of the reindeer and some others. The group all arrived on the top of Friendship Fire Company’s truck, much to the delight of the children waiting. Also thrilling the kids was a “storm” of artificial snow on the sidewalk outside as they headed in to enjoy the activities.
Once inside the building, children had the choice of heading into Santa’s Workshop where they built wooden toys. The kits, provided for the event by the local Home Depot store, included football games similar to corn hole and fire trucks. After construction, the builders then painted their creations.
Others headed off with Mrs. Claus to design beautiful Christmas cookies to wrap and take home. The cookies were delivered by the Blakeley Street Bakery in Charles Town. Children added icing and sprinkles to create their own special design.
Still another option was gathering a baggie of “reindeer food” from the reindeer feeding station. In preparation for the big night coming Dec. 24, the children added all sorts of treats enjoyed by the reindeer including chips, oats and other appropriate snacks.
Add in moon bounces, balloon animals, concessions and photos with Santa and the night could be nothing but successful.
One more element added to the event, more for the adults attending than the children, was a vote on a favorite decorated tree. Myers shared that the Parks department provided miniature trees to nine county departments who decorated them as they liked. Photos of the trees were posted on the Park Facebook page with instructions for visitors to hit the “Like” button on their favorite tree. In person votes could be cast at the evening’s event. Participating were the county’s maintenance department, the 911 Center, the Planning department, GIS department, the Assessor’s office, the County Commission office, the IT department and the office of Homeland Security. The final vote tally came after the party was over and was announced on the Facebook page.
The trees were then raffled off with all proceeds going to the Parks and Recreation scholarship fund that allows children who otherwise many not be able to participate in department programming to do so at a discounted price.
Ending the new event was a showing of The Polar Express on the department’s blow up movie screen. Children settled down in the gymnasium to enjoy hot chocolate and snacks and one of the season’s most loved films.
Despite the challenge of planning an event like the Polar Party where one is never sure how many kids will arrive to participate, Myers said it is all worth it when the crowds come in and have a great time.
“Planning is always a challenge because you never know if there will be 20 or 200,” Myers said. But as a lifelong resident of Jefferson County and mother of four young girls, Myers said that whatever the Parks and Rec can offer to keep people here and involved in their home community.