Families waiting in line to meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Photo by Neden Bernadin.
Going all the way back to about 69 years ago, Mr. Burgess, who was the superintendent of Pine Banks Park at the time, created an annual holiday tradition. During that time, Pine Banks Park had inhabited wildlife animals such as deers and donkeys which Burgess would show the kids in the community along with Santa. This became a tradition ever since. Overall, it was a fun initiative for the Christmas season. Today, they do not include animals anymore since it became quite difficult to maintain as there was not much space for them.
Eight years ago, Barbara Murphy, Ward 5 Councillor, was asked to help out because she was someone that was very much “involved in the city” and had "a reach to get the word out to people, the different families, and schools.” Murphy "glady" joined in and since then, she believes that they have “been going strong.” The event is now a collaboration between Pine Banks, the Ward 5 City Council commission and staff.
For this year’s edition, they added Mrs. Claus played by Murphy herself. While the families were waiting in a line outside to meet Santa, Murphy interacted with the kids to keep them entertained and asking them if “they had their list ready for Santa.” Also for this year, Texas Roadhouse gave them candy canes and kids meals for free considering that the lines were long and could take up to an hour. The rest of Ward 5 were dressed up as elves and offered cookies and hot chocolate.
When planning for this event, one concern that was brought up was safety considering it was during winter season and the parking space was across the street. Thankfully, the Malden Police and Patrol staff came for protection and hence why they held the event on two days, Saturday December 15th and Sunday the 16th.
Overall, Murphy was really looking forward to seeing the “wonder on children’s faces” due to the excitement and curiosity of them getting to meet Santa and their mothers telling them that it’s actually him. She recalled a moment where one kid had asked “where were the reindeer?” to which she provided a backstory of how the rain was too warm and they had to fly back north. Another factor that make it even more exciting was the Ward committee encouraging families that have recently moved from other areas and cities and families of different generations as a tradition.
Mayor Gary Christenson was presented on opening night (December 16th) and he was very amazed by the turnout” because it served as a “testament to the great work Councillor Murphy and the Ward 5 Association along with Pine Banks Park does hosting this event.”
With an event such as this, Christenson believes that it’s a great opportunity to unite families among the community and free of cost for the kids. It also gave a chance “to submit [their] wish list to Santa and Mrs.Claus which [his] consisted of more funding for our school.”