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Marengo tradition of Santa, gifts for children continues


December 14, 2011
Saturday was a big day in Marengo: Santa came to town.

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Twins Zoey and Delilah, who are 2-1/2, sit on Santa’s lap Saturday at the Marengo Town Hall. The town had 200 treats to pass out and, at the end of the event, only six were left. Photo by Lee Cable
And he's been coming to Marengo each year, for longer than most adults can even remember, to personally ask the children what they want for Christmas. Also, the town, as always, gives each child a gift and some treats.

Each year, the line of kids and their parents stretch down the street quite a distance as they wait to get inside the side door of the town hall building.

Once inside, they move slowly along a hallway, edging closer and closer, to old Saint Nick. The place is thick with excitement — and even anxiety — as they enter the large, main office where the man with a beard dressed in a red suit is sitting, giving out treats and taking the Christmas wishes of the kids.

Some of the children walk right up to Santa, jump on his lap and begin citing from memory all the things they want on Christmas Day. Others hang back, a little intimidated by the big guy and his elf, who helps hand out the treats.

One little fellow, about a year old, was fine when his mother placed him on Santa's lap. He smiled at Mom and Grandma. But when he turned his head and looked up at Santa, his lower lip jutted out and began to quiver, and he wasn't so sure he wanted to be there. But he looked back at Mom, and she was smiling, so everything was suddenly good. Santa wasn't so bad after all, especially when he hands out a bag of treats.

The Marengo event is heartwarming to watch. Some of those children in line may not be getting much for Christmas. Their parents are laid off from their jobs, and some parents, even though they are still working, are struggling to make ends meet in the slow economy. When it comes down to food on the table or Christmas gifts, the food will be the priority every time.

But the Marengo event often fills a void, one that, through no fault of their own, kids are often caught up in. The town ensures each child, needy or not, is welcome and gets to feel cared about and remembered during the holidays.

The town council members — Ralph Sherron, Tony Jones and Tonia Elliott — help with the event. Clerk-treasurer Mike Haverstock helps direct kids and makes a list of names and ages to match up kids and gifts.

Local businesses and individuals contribute to the event, which enables the town to buy gifts and treats for the kids. Mona Haverstock, deputy clerk-treasurer, does most of the shopping for toys and treats.

"Actually, Tony and Tara Sue Jones helped with some of the shopping also this year," Haverstock said. "It's a big chore. But when you see the smiles on the faces of those kids, it's all worth it. It makes them feel appreciated and loved. And that's what it's all about.

"My parents had a business here when I was young, and my husband grew up here as well, and we remember the town doing this when we were young," he said. So, it's been going on a long time. And it's special every time."

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Schuler Bauer
Barbara Shaw
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