The annual Trains of Williamsburg Christmas Walk was held Friday, Dec. 3.
“The Christmas walk this year really was a huge success. I am very pleased with the turnout,” village administrator Patti Bates said.
Council members agreed and said this event seems to put the whole community in a true holiday spirit.
“What makes our Christmas Walk such a success is the support and participation of the local businesses and organizations,” Bates said.
There are 31 businesses that actively participate in the Christmas walk. Even the bank stays open for this holiday celebration as does the library. Some businesses offered hot chocolate and cookies to the Christmas Walk visitors, while others provided miniature doughnuts, warm cider and other varieties of holiday treats including candy canes.
The Grassy Run Historical Arts Committee was on hand to display what Christmas was like during the frontier days. Members also answered questions asked by those who stopped to visit about what life was like back in “the olden days.” The members were dressed in period costumes with a tripod and large black kettle positioned over an open fire.
A big event for the children at the Christmas Walk was Santa Claus’s arrival to the North Pole. He came to town riding on the fire truck. Children waited expectantly in line for the chance to sit on his lap and ask for that special gift on Christmas Day.
Music was the air as the Williamsburg High School band played at the North Pole and strolling carolers wandered throughout the village singing Christmas carols.
All of the businesses, in keeping with the theme of this festive event, set up model trains in their store front windows, or in various locations inside of their buildings. Nineteen of the windows were decorated by Williamsburg art students.
However, the American Legion Post #288, the official starting point of the Christmas Walk, was in danger of not having a train display at all this year. Ray Sipple said he made phone calls to model railroad clubs in the area but got turned down by all of them.
“Most of the people I called who were involved in clubs said they could not set up for such a short period of time and it was also short notice,” Sipple said. “They all said they only set up displays for a minimum of three day days, though.”
Mayor Lefker put an alert out earlier in council meetings, as well as notices in the newspaper, that the Legion was in desperate need of trains this year.
“Those who had displays last year were not going to be able to attend. In the beginning we did have two people who were going to set up train displays, then all of sudden we had none,” said Lefker. “I was so afraid we were not going to have anything in the American Legion Hall. That would have been awful, since that is where the Christmas Walk officially starts.”
Mike McKinney, Williamsburg resident, and model railroad train enthusiast, became involved when he got word that the village needed help.
“Through searches on the Internet I found an Amelia resident, Tom Cruse, listed on line as a member of the Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society. He was more than happy to help. All that was required of me was go to Entertrainment Junction and pick up their trailer that contained the very large modules and equipment. I stored it at my house until the day of the Christmas walk.”
Once the display was set up, it encompassed a large portion of the floor space in the Legion hall. McKinney and his family also provided a decorated Christmas tree, and tables filled with Christmas cheer such as moving Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus and a singing Christmas tree. His daughter, April McKinney, dressed as an elf, was the official greeter.
Lefker referred to McKinney as a hero of the event because of the time and effort he put forth in making sure the American Legion Hall had the large model train display.
“The real heroes are the members of the Greater Cincinnati Garden Railway Society. They really came thru for us,” McKinney said. “It’s funny, too, how they apologized because they didn’t have more displays and more volunteers. They even claimed they were a bit embarrassed because it wasn’t their best display. But they are definitely excited about coming back next year and they promise a bigger and better display. They have even talked about extending some of the model train displays outside as well.”
Lefker said she was really impressed that the hall was made ready in such a timely manner. Five minutes before the for the fist visitors of the evening stopped by, everything was in place.
“I was a little worried when I first walked in there was just these big empty stands being set up and no Christmas tree,” Lefker said. “It didn’t look like it would be ready by the time the first guests arrived. I was so excited when I saw the hall finished.”
Lefker informed McKinney that she was making him the official conductor of this stop. McKinney graciously accepted and promised to make it even better next year.
This year’s train raffle winner was nine year old Heleigh from the Eastgate area. The Lionel “North Pole Central Christmas Train” was a donated by Sharon Wood, honoring her late husband, Bob. The train was displayed in the window of Fitzgerald’s Pharmacy for the evening.
In order to participate in the raffle, a punch card had to be obtained at the American Legion Hall. Businesses, throughout the town, marked “Conductor Stop,” stamp the raffle card. The last stop holds the raffle/punch card in the hopper until the end of the Christmas Walk and is drawn later.
Lefker said that they are working on making it at least a two day event next year for the trains. The date for next years’ Trains of Williamsburg will be Dec. 2, 2011.