Hello again, Santa Claus. Children scampered to the green in front of Jamie Two Coats Toy Shop, an apropos station for the merriment to commence in Shelburne. Town Manager Joe Colangelo was there, with his family in tow, to kick off the traditional Holiday Stroll on Dec. 4.
Selectboard Chair Gary von Stange was there, too, providing comic relief for the 200 or so souls who arrived in the bustling tourist town where traditions hold fast even when so much outside its borders are ever-changing. The quintessential scene missed only one thing, a dusting of snow. It was a balmy 37 degrees, nary a flake in sight.
Volunteers donated their time to hand out hats and small gifts, the town manager managed to arrive in good cheer after a long day of pondering the next best steps for his town. Von Stange evoked memories of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye and threatened to break out in dance before his grandson graciously grabbed the microphone to lead the growing crowd in a beautiful rendition of Silent Night. The pregnant pauses within the old standby held something more than they had the year before. Melancholy voices rose and fell to convey a tale of saddened hearts, perhaps the news of the week was just a little too much.
Whatever the reason, children, the small and the tall, still managed to squeal with delight as the SD Ireland cement truck, bedecked in twinkling lights, parked itself in front of Shelburne’s Country Store. The truck definitely gave the luster of mid-day for the tots as they anxiously looked out for the man of the hour to arrive.
After the colossal Christmas tree was lit up in primary colors to mark the start of the holiday season, Santa Claus arrived courtesy of Shelburne’s fire department. He didn’t disappoint. Just like the famous poem, he was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot. Shelburne police officers carefully directed traffic on Route 7 to allow for the masses to follow the jolly old elf to Town Hall where a tree, sweets lovingly crafted by volunteers, and his lap were the main event for a few hours.
Iris McLean, 9, of St. George was one of the first to meet Kris Kringle up on the stage. Her apprehension was apparent with the wringing of her hands, her fingers working to keep her anxiety at bay, twisting and turning as she spoke. The din of the room loomed loud around them.
McLean opted to stand instead of fully committing to sitting on the stranger’s lap. But soon, a smile rose up into her rosy, dimpled cheeks, and she dropped her hands to her sides. Her demeanor turned relaxed. The discussion must have gone well.
As kids left the stage, they were met by volunteers who offered frosted cookies covered with sprinkles and jams, and a warm drink to round out the evening. Togetherness, laughter and a spirit of giving time to a beloved community in this way is what makes life a little easier to bear in an ever-changing, unpredictable world. It’s one neighbor helping another when the time comes, even if it’s only up onto Santa’s lap.
In the core of each community rests the seeds of who its young residents will become. It means something to show up, sleigh or no sleigh. Each member had a valuable contribution to the evening whether it was handing out holiday hats with a smile, or delivering a Christmas carol after a hard day at the office.
Never underestimate what it means to show up. Bring your favorite cookie recipe even if you forgot the cocoa. Show up anyway. Be there. Anything given out of love, offered with a peaceful heart, no matter how imperfect, is what makes a community wholesome. Those who gathered at the Holiday Stroll came with Christmas spirit in their souls. Each looking for a little magic in the one true place it can be found – in the heart of a loving community.