People crowded onto Main Street waiting in line to talk with Santa Claus or to skate on a temporary rink, to get signatures from a professional baseball player or to ride a pony, to take a carriage ride or a train ride.
Cartoon characters walked among an estimated 3,000 people who turned out for this past weekend’s Children’s Hometown Holiday in downtown Wapakoneta.
Started five years ago in the effort to help stimulate business downtown, the event’s primary organizer, Elaine Poppe said the big crowd made it the largest turnout the event has had yet.
“We hadn’t had a Santa House for some time,” Poppe said. “That was how it started. We talked to the shop teacher and he had a contest with the class. That was how we got the Santa House.”
The event’s newest feature, a synthetic ice skating rink, turned out to be a smash hit. Approximately 650 people laced up for
the event, not counting several who brought their own skates.
Wapakoneta’s Lacey Detrick and her coach, Glenn Replogle, gave a demonstration at 10 a.m. on the rink. Replogle is a former U.S. champion ice skater and a former Disney on Ice performer.
“We have already had dozens of requests to bring back the ice skating rink,” Poppe said.
Of course, Santa Claus met with deserving local children. Parents and children stood in line for as long as an hour as the line snaked down Main Street from its intersection with Willipie Street to midway between Perry and South Blackhoof streets. Santa Claus heard Christmas wishes from approximately 980 kids during his visit.
One parent said he and his two daughters stood in line for 45 minutes and had moved one block, but he would not miss having his two young girls talk to Santa Claus.
“This is really nice,” the father said. “The crowd is much larger than in years past. The event is really growing and continues to add new things each year.”
Children loved seeing Alvin and the Chipmunks, Safety Pup, Dora the Explorer and other characters walking amongst the crowd and through the downtown streets.
A Christmas tea party at the First English Lutheran Church had 60 children attend. Immediately following the tea party Santa Claus arrived at the fire department lawn via a parade. A live reindeer display, pony, carriage, trolley and train rides, and a story by Mrs. Claus at the library were just some of the many events held.
A free showing of Arthur Christmas at the Wapa Theater filled every seat and left some standing.
Danielle and Ralph Oen, owners of Oen’s Kitchen and Bath Showroom, opened their stores for cookie decorating. Ralph Oen said he bought approximately 400 cookies to be decorated, but he had to send his son, Zane, out to purchase more because of the large number of people stopping to decorate a Christmas cookie.
Poppe said the event would not have been possible if it had not been for all the help she received.
“I am just amazed at the cooperation,” Poppe said. “There are several people that helped out,” and many more people have expressed an interest to be involved next year.”
While the all of the events held were free for the children, parents expressed their gratitude as the event had its desired effect on business. Downtown businesses were happy with the huge crowds passing through the stores.
“The merchants I talked to all said they had an outstanding day,” Poppe said.
Poppe said the lasting memories it left with the children was the event’s biggest success.
“The whole purpose is so children will remember a celebration of Christmas in downtown Wapakoneta,” Poppe said. “It is a lot of fun and the events are free for the children. I hope it is something they will always remember.”
Six-year-old Katie expressed the success of the event best after climbing off of a pony.
“This is fun,” Katie said. “It is like Christmas already like on the TV shows.”