By Jessie Reestman
Santa to make his first visit to Elgin.
The wait is over as Santa is scheduled to arrive for his annual visit to Elgin on December 7 beginning at 4:30 p.m. in the outdoor gated area of the Elgin K.C. Hall. At that time, children and their families may come share in the Christmas spirit by partaking in the various festivities that will make up Elgin’s Hometown Christmas, formerly known as The Elgin Community Club’s Kids Shopping Day. Besides children having the opportunity to share their Christmas wish list with Santa, attending families can enjoy a warm meal, watch a lighted parade and try their hand at newly added “build a gift” stations.
In an attempt to better accommodate the busy lives of our area families, members of The Elgin Chamber of Commerce/Community Club reached out to a few local parents to find out what they believed could make the evening even more special for attending families. One of those locals, a hard-working mother of three children, Tricia Spieker, answered the call.
She explained, “Alan Reicks called me last year shortly after it was over and said they were looking for people who would be willing to help that had younger kids that were invested in the event. He wanted it to go smoothly and was looking for new ideas.”
Recalling her own experiences with the event, Tricia shared, “My daughter, Tess was about 8 days old the first time we came to visit Santa; we were fortunate to be allowed just to come and hold a spot, so we didn’t have to keep her there for an extended period of time. That was great, and we were so thankful, but there have been other years where we have stood in line and missed the opportunity to eat because we came right after I had gotten home from work in Columbus. We have experienced both ends of it. Many families are made up of both working parents who want to experience a magical night for their kids. I think having a little bit more of a schedule might be helpful.”
Although not a current member of the Community Club, Tricia felt this was reason enough to offer a helping hand. She furthered, “Jennifer Iler and I are planning to be in charge that night. Alan Reicks, Bruce Clark, and Janna Shrunk have been part of conversations.” Within these conversations, a few changes have been implemented. Sharing what she hopes to be one of the most noticeable changes, Tricia said, “We are trying to use the digital sign-up, so rather than having to stand in line for an extended period of time, take off work early, or miss supper, people will know their sign up time ahead of time. This means that every fifteen minutes, there will be ten slots available, so you will just need to be there by your time slot. There should not be more than ten families waiting in line with you. For those unfamiliar with a QR code, you just need to open up the camera on your smart phone, and it will bring up a link you can click on to sign up.”
Taking into account that not everyone will sign up digitally, the decision was made to leave 6:15 to 7 o’clock open to those on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Another change attendees may notice upon entering the K.C. Hall is that shopping stations for children to purchase gifts have been replaced by craft stations where children of all ages will create a gift for their loved ones. Explaining her idea, Tricia said, “I like to call it a ‘build a gift station.’ The idea is rather than simply buying something, kids can make a gift that doesn’t involve glue or glitter that can be ready to take home that night to gift to someone or hang on their tree. The cost is five dollars per build a gift. Examples of gifts include Christmas Lego ornaments, beaded key chains, pom-pom ornaments, and some foam ornaments for younger kids. Jennifer Iler has lined up some home-schooled high school students to help at the various stations that will run from 4:30 til 7:00, at which time the parade will begin. Soup will continue after the parade until 8 or 8:30 until people are done.”
Sharing her hopes for the evening, Tricia concluded, “I hope we can create a more relaxed evening where people can take time to eat and visit. You know, the kids will have something fun to do, something they can do themselves, and have some pride in giving it to someone if they choose to give it as a gift.“