Angola, Indiana looks like it’s straight out of the movies about picturesque small towns. A lot of us do know each other. We have a perfect little courthouse and plenty of quaint shops. But one night of the year is just a bit more magical than others. It’s become tradition for families to gather on the night after Thanksgiving on the town circle.
The monument, Columbia, plays host to lights that form a giant Christmas tree. A calliope is wheeled out to play holiday tunes, and various elves and Dickens like characters mingle with excited children as the hour approaches.
As everyone waits with baited breath, the scream of a fire truck siren cuts through the night. The crowd jostles to get a good view of eight reindeer pulling Santa and Mrs. Claus’ sleigh. Two police cars, lights flashing, follow behind guarding the celebrities as they make their way into town. As tradition goes, they always circle the mound three times before getting out to greet the kids of Steuben County.
Santa often knows them by name, and shouts out such things as, “there’s little Mikey,” and “has Dickey been good this year?” Excited children crowd around him as he laughs and pats them on the head or shakes their hands.
But the excitement’s far from over. Though Santa has held court in many shops around the circle over the years, his latest hangout has been The Brokaw Theater.
The line to see Santa often wraps around a block or more. But it’s a hot ticket and most kids are willing to wait. It is Santa after all. Who else are they going to share their deepest Christmas wishes with? Once they reach the inner sanctum of the Theater, elves serve hot chocolate and cookies to warm them up.
Inside the dark warm doors, Santa and Mrs. Claus make their way to place of honor—two thrones on a small stage in one of the theaters. On the screen above them, old Christmas movies play to keep the long line of children happy while they wait for a chance to sit on Santa’s lap.
When good little boys and girls finally reach the lively old elf’s lap, he always asks the tireless question, “What do you want for Christmas?” He’s very diplomatic with his answers. For instance when one child asked for a pony, he told her that they needed a lot of space, but he’d be happy to listen to another wish. He also let another child asking for a long list of electronics, that all those things would be very expensive, and he didn’t know if he could manage the entire list.
Unlike many places that commercialize Kris Kringle’s visits, it’s still a throw back here to another time. Parents are free to take photos of their children sitting on Santa’s lap, but there are no photographers selling high priced Polaroids. I don’t even think there’s a fee to see the jolly old elf!