WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- In December, memories come out along with the ornaments, wreath and the carols on the radio. Seeing neighborhood decorations brings up the image of your dad hanging lights on the evergreen tree in the front yard. Watching kids line up in front of the department store Santa Claus reminds you of your daughter’s first nervous visit to the man in red. Funny, sentimental, even bittersweet memories -- Christmas brings them all back.
We asked area residents to share their favorite Christmases. We think you’ll enjoy hearing their stories.
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- The first time I met Tallan Noble Latz he squiggled back into a chair, leaving his tennies dangling off the floor, and picked up a guitar that was taller than him and maybe just as heavy. He was 5 years old and knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life -- play guitar.
And play it he did. My husband, Mayner, taught guitar so it wasn’t unusual to hear young musicians eeking out some kind of music. But the sounds Latz squeezed out of those six strings drew me to the front of the house, where I expected to see a whizened old blues man.
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- The echoes from the War Between the States reverberate less with each passing year. Only through the efforts of dedicated actors, authors and aficionados is the Civil War alive, culminating in a milestone 150th anniversary this coming year.
Historian and author Lance Herdegen has shared his passion for the Civil War through several books, summertime re-enactments and passing down his exuberance for the time period to his grandchildren.
DARIEN TOWNSHIP -- Finding joy and comfort during the holiday season can be as simple as sitting down to a home-cooked meal with loved ones or decorating the tree as a family. However, for some in Rock and Walworth counties, the delight that comes with the Christmas season isn’t to be had so easily.
STATELINE NEWS -- For John Cooper, the holiday season just won’t feel the same this year, because his wife of 50 years died on Easter Sunday.
eline270/280 AD-c.343AD: The real St. Nicholas lived to become the most accurate ancestral depiction of Santa Claus. He disguised himself in a hooded cloak to leave gifts for children of the poor and underprivileged.
1822: “A Visit From St. Nicholas” poem, aka “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clark Moore describes St. Nicholas. Artist Thomas Nast used Moore’s description of “a little old driver, so lively and quick.” He was dressed all in fur, with a peddler’s pack on his back. This eyes twinkled, his dimples were merry, cheeks like roses, nose like a cherry. He had a beard as white as snow, a pipe and a little round belly.
1857: Harper’s Weekly illustration by Nast shows Santa leaving a snowy landscape. Explorations of the Artic and the North Pole soon caused Santa’s homeland to become associated with the North Pole.
1866: “Santa Claus and His Works” by Nast is published in Harper’s Weekly. This was the first major depiction of Santa Claus featuring Santa as a jolly old man with white beard and hair, dressed in all fur, carrying a peddler’s sack.
1871: Nast publishes an illustration of Santa sitting at his desk reading letters from parents listing their children as good or bad. Santa is shown to be somewhat of a disciplinarian.
1870: Nast depicts a little girl dropping a letter to Santa in the mailbox — the first time a child sends a letter to Santa.
1873-1940: St. Nicholas Magazine published as a magazine for children.
1879: Nast’s illustration this year is of Santa Claus as a benevolent old man whose greatest gift is love for all. He is shown hugging a group of children.
1922: Norman Rockwell combines saintly St. Nicholas and the jolly old elf in his depiction of Santa published in the Saturday Evening Post.
1931-1964: Haddon Sundbloom creates the Santa for Coca-Cola’s “Thirst Knows No Season” campaign. Santa is now life-size in a red suit trimmed in white fur, complete with a big belt with brass buckle.
WALWORTH COUNTY SUNDAY -- For the past three years, Mark Bailey has pulled on a fur suit dyed a dark cranberry, covered his head and chin with bleached yak fur, buckled a wide belt around his belly, donned a hat and wire-rimmed glasses, slung a peddler’s bag over his back and tucked his feet into black leather boots with shiny buckles. Outfitted in this manner, he slips into the past and becomes the Old World Santa who greets visitors at Old World Wisconsin, the outdoor living history museum near Eagle.
The past can be a slippery slope of re-invention. No one character demonstrates that so well as Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas and St. Nicholas. What we now picture as the quintessential Santa has more to do with marketing and the media than we’d like to think. But at the Old World Christmas celebration, you too can slip into the past.
I’m not what you would call graceful.
My history includes many episodes that range from awkward to downright clumsy. A classmate once described me as being "as coordinated as a cow on stilts."
SHARON -- Fire crews spent much of the day Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 on the scene of a grain bin fire in Sharon.
Corn in the bin was smoldering for most of the day as fire crews dumped large amounts water into the container, according to firefighters on the scene. The bin is part of the DeLong facility on Salt Box Road outside of Sharon.
Sharon, Darien and Delavan fire departments have been called to assist.
Thanksgiving is behind us, but the holiday season is just starting. For many of us, that means long shopping trips to load up on gifts, but it doesn’t have to be all work and no play.
There is no better way to ring in the holiday season than to get out and experience events going on throughout the county. Yes, meteorologists agree it will be cold, but this time of year relies on the warmth of family, community and hot chocolate.
These things can be found in abundance at our top five holiday events this year.
1. Christmas Card Town Parade, Dec. 6, Elkhorn
Dec. 6 will be a great opportunity to bundle up the family and grab a spot in downtown Elkhorn to watch the 33rd annual Christmas Card Town Parade beginning at 1:30 p.m.
"It’s a very well attended, community-minded parade," said Elkhorn Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Clapper. "We have Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, softball teams, high school bands, the wacky wheel walker and, of course, we have Santa Claus."
The parade usually averages around 75 entries and takes anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half to run through, Clapper said. Many residents line the streets to see the Christmas floats, novelty acts, music and animals.
"The Lions club is always a hit with their wheelie mobile," Clapper said. "Toe to Toe Ballet have been in since their beginning, and all the 4-H clubs and local churches make an appearance. I like that we always have a very strong presence of our police, fire and county vehicles participating."
The evening prior to the parade, residents have a chance to usher in the holiday with the tree lighting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at Veterans Park. Afterward, all are welcome to warm up at Matheson Memorial Library for the Peoples Bank sponsored Santa and Mrs. Claus reception. Families can enjoy free hot chocolate, cookies, music and crafts while the children wait for their turn to tell Santa what they want for Christmas.
For more information, call 262-723-5788 or visit elkhorn-wi.org.
2. Burlington Christmas Parade and Santa Chalet, Dec. 5, Burlington
The 33rd annual Burlington Christmas Parade is a chance for children and parents alike to get out on the historic streets of downtown Burlington to enjoy a holiday extravaganza. The parade kicks off at 6:30 p.m. and this year’s theme, "Most Loved Christmas Carols," will be evident in the decorations of the parade entries.
"It’s a very magical occasion and it’s all about the community," said Burlington Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jan Ludtke. "After the parade, our Santa Chalet opens. It’s very unique; our Santa Chalet has been going on for as long as anyone can remember and it’s in our downtown park. We also have cookies and hot chocolate there, the reindeer and sled dogs come down (and) there is caroling. There is just all sorts of things going on after the parade in the park."
The parade usually has about 80 entries and takes an hour to wind along the route, Ludtke said.
For more information, call 262-763-6044 or visit burlingtonchamber.org.
3. East Troy Electric Railroad Christmas Express Train, Nov. 29-30, Dec. 6-7, Dec. 13-14, East Troy
The East Troy Electric Railroad’s Christmas Express merrily rides the rails this year as it has for many holiday seasons. The restored Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad cars rattle along for a 10-mile round trip starting at the East Troy Depot, 2002 Church St. in East Troy. The cars will be decorated for the event and will feature caroling, story reading and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus. The actual running time is about 45 minutes, and there are heated bathrooms and hot chocolate available in the East Troy Depot.
Christmas train dates include Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 29 and Nov. 30, Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 and Dec. 13 and Dec. 14. The train runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on all listed days.
The round trip runs along the century-old interurban trolley line linking East Troy to Mukwonago. The original East Troy Christmas Parade train, started by the East Troy Jaycees and the railroad in 1972, was a historic reproduction of the Schuster’s Christmas Parade in Milwaukee. The Schuster’s Department Store chain sponsored the parade, established in 1928, to kick off the Christmas shopping season.
For more information or to order tickets, call 262-642-3263 or visit easttroyrr.org.
4. Great Electric Children’s Christmas Parade, Dec. 6, Lake Geneva
Starting at 5 p.m., the 39th annual Lake Geneva Christmas parade promises to be just as big a bash as it’s been in previous years. The parade runs through downtown Lake Geneva on Broad Street, which will be lit up by local businesses and organizations. The occasion is also a good chance to stroll through town for holiday shopping and dining specials.
"The kids love the decorated fire truck with Santa that comes last," said Gertie Cuccia, the parade organizer with the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce. "But there are always new entries every year. We have quite a few with dancing teams; they are always very entertaining to watch. I always enjoy seeing the area school bands as well. It really gets you in the mood for the holidays."
About 75 entries are expected for the approximately 45-minute spectacle.
For more information, call 262-248-4416 or visit lakegenevawi.com.
5. Sharon Victorian Christmas, Dec. 5, Sharon
Kicking off at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, the Sharon Victorian Christmas event will be a look back at the Christmas festivities of the 1800s. Known as one of the area’s most historical outside events, the event is a chance to step back in time to relive a Victorian Christmas. Previous years have brought townsfolk in their Victorian finery, time period entertainment including a magician, bell ringers, musical entertainment, strolling carolers and Victorian dancers. The parade has featured unique eateries with roasted chestnuts, the soup wagon, wassail, spiced cider, the Kettle Corn Man, main course foods and homemade Victorian sweets; old-time photos with a Victorian Santa; artisans selling their wares; fireworks; and horse-drawn carriages.
For more information, call 262-736-6246.