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Holiday spirit has strings attached

November 27, 2005|By PEPPER BALLARD

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.VA. - A train as mesmerizing as Santa Claus' sleigh whisked by Shepherdstown Train Station on Saturday, drawing the nearly 50 children seated inside for a Wonderment Puppets show to scurry in awe to the station's green-trimmed windows.

The train was a brief distraction for the children, some of whom had just come off a trolley that shuttled passengers around for Christmas in Shepherdstown, one of six festive days in the West Virginia town that hummed with a troubadour, gospel music and shopping.

Berkeley Springs, W.Va., puppeteer Joe Santoro watched the children patiently.

"The puppets have told me to make announcements," Santoro said before his puppets took the stage.

The audience, made up of adults seated in folded chairs and children squatting, kneeling and spinning on the wooden floors, paid attention, aside from intermittent squeals of laughter from the show's giddiest spectators.


"No one should touch the puppets during the show. The puppets belong to a very strong union," Santoro said, drawing laughs from some of the adults. "They'll file a grievance and it will be a really big mess."

And so, as Santoro ducked behind the blue backdrop, a near hush fell over the crowd. Colorful puppets played out the fairy tale, "The Elves and the Shoemaker," which Santoro dubbed "Elves Holiday," in conjunction with the day's activities. Before that show, Santoro gave the audience an introduction to puppeteering, wriggling a pair of pink plastic eyeballs around his fingers, imitating a snail, clam, old woman and old man. The eyeballs were a side-splitting hit for the children.

After the show, 8-year-old Sydney Yates said she laughed at "Elves Holiday" because she said the elves - a clumsy pair of stringy-haired and bright-faced puppets of Italian descent- were funny.

But Yates said she doesn't need a puppet show - or anything else for that matter - to put her in the holiday spirit. The Shepherdstown, W.Va., girl is already prepared: Her Christmas wish list has long been written and her family tree has just been picked. All she has to do now is write letters to Santa Claus. She said she's a little rusty. They haven't had correspondence for two years.

Annika Rochefort said she only needs one thing to put her in the Christmas spirit: "An 'Elizabeth Doll.'"

Her mother, Deborah Rochefort, smiled and chimed that the doll is at the top of her history-loving daughter's Christmas list.

The 9-year-old girl made a sly segue, saying that the "yellow girl, the little one," a Victorian puppet dressed in yellow dress, was her favorite character in Saturday's show.

Deborah Rochefort, 46, of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., said she liked the show, too.

"I enjoy childrens' programming ... My kids are a convenient excuse," she said.

The puppet show was sponsored by Shepherdstown Public Library.

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