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Kids lunch with Santa

December 21, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Shepherdstown, W.Va. - When Santa asked Tyler Cockrell what he wants for Christmas, the 4-year-old only shrugged his shoulders.

"You only got a couple more days. You better be thinking," Santa told him Saturday.

Cockrell jumped down from Santa's lap and started to walk away, but his mother, Heather Fowler of Charles Town, W.Va., prodded Tyler to ask Santa the question that's been on his mind.

How did Santa get here?

Why, a sleigh pulled by reindeer, of course, said Santa, aka Brownie Chrisman.

Dasher, Dancer and the rest were waiting for him on the roof of the Shepherdstown War Memorial Building, but you won't see them if you look because reindeer are shy and they always run to the opposite side of the roof when people are looking, Santa explained.

About 200 children and parents had lunch with Santa on Saturday in an event organized by Jefferson County Parks and Recreation.

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Each child got a Polaroid picture taken with Santa that was mounted into an ornament.

This is the ninth year of the event, so families who have come every year can watch their children grow up all over again when they decorate their Christmas tree with ornaments from over the years, organizers said.

Nora Bye, 40, brings her two children from Baltimore every year.

"It's the kind of memories you want your kids to have," she said.

Bye's sister, Pat Cowan, 50, of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., introduced her to the event.

"It's just wonderful. They're well-organized. It's simple. Santa's fabulous," said Cowan, who also has two children.

"We told them they're coming as long as they can sit on Santa's knee," Cowan said.

Bye had her picture taken with Santa when she was pregnant with her daughter Jennifer.

Jennifer, who is now 5, was scared of Santa one year but the jolly old man managed to sneak up behind her for the obligatory photo.

Chrisman has portrayed Santa at the event every year but one. That year he had heart surgery.

Chrisman's been entertaining children as Santa for more than 30 years, but he's had to cut back recently due to his heart problems. He gets out of breath behind his bushy Santa beard.

"I love making children happy, seeing all the different expressions," he said.

In addition to meeting Santa, children got to decorate a Christmas stocking to keep.

Lunch consisted of hot dogs, chips, cookies and punch.

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