Merrymaking In Marrietta: Activities For All Ages

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written by HEATHER KW BROWN | photos courtesy of BARBARA STEVENSON; CITY OF MARIETTA; ADOBE STOCK

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Lamar May dressed and ready to spread holiday cheer as Santa with his wife, Judy — we mean, Mrs. Claus.

All I really have to say is Santa. Or more specifically, I talked to Santa directly.

At 40 (plus) years old, I don’t exactly get invited to sit on the jolly fellow’s lap, pull on his beard and tell him my personal, albeit now smaller, wish list. Recently though, I had a good long talk with him.

Okay, in all fairness, it wasn’t “the” Santa, but Lamar May might be as close as I’m going to get. At 75 years old, he not only looks every bit the part, but he has been officially trained in the Christmas spirit and has served the important role of Santa for 13 years. 

“I started being Santa in 2002 and have been Santa on the Square since 2004,” said May, who retired from Lockheed Martin after 37 years and decided to stop toying with the idea of being perhaps the most recognizable character in the world.

“I always admired the stories of Santa. My wife is the one who said I had a knack with kids, but I wasn’t even sure I could grow a beard,” he said, adding that when it started to fill out nicely, he applied to the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Michigan. “A lot of Santas don’t do the training, but that’s just my way of thinking and I was lucky enough to get in the first year that I applied.”

Priority for the school, which in more than 80 years has only changed hands among three different families, is to teach the spirit of Christmas. Lessons include learning how to interact with live reindeer which are actually onsite, enabling each Santa-in-training to learn up close and personal some of the characteristics and habits of their flying steed, as well as the history of Santa.

May also described a huge sleigh equipped with life-sized reindeer replicas used for simulating their “flight training.” Not to be overlooked, even toy making is addressed with classes on sanding, drilling and other less dangerous courses that can’t result in getting those precious white beards caught in precarious situations.

May’s wife, also an alumnus of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, participates annually as Mrs. Claus when she arrives with him on the fire truck for the highly anticipated tree-lighting ceremony, scheduled this year for Dec. 1 on Marietta Square.

“It’s funny, my wife grew up in Cobb County and she remembers going to the Square to visit Santa when she was little,” May said, adding that now they also get to share that moment with their grandchildren.

Santa on the Square has been a tradition for 25 years and May has been a huge part of why families keep bringing their children and grandchildren back each and every year.

“It’s changed our whole life,” he said. “When we started doing this, we didn’t realize it becomes who you are the rest of the year. People come up to me in the grocery store and I always have my list, so I say I really get to see how kids behave when I see them in the grocery store or in restaurants.”

Whether they will be slightly older versions of the same faces he’s seen year after year or brand new ones entering the well-adorned Christmas House, the”Classic Santa” we all know and love is ready once again.

And this year promises to be unlike any other on Marietta Square – or should I say Winter Wonderland?

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The arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus to Marietta Square for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

THE COUNTDOWN IS ON

Parking your car in a suburb of Atlanta one minute and being transported to a Winter Wonderland the next would require a significant amount of imagination, but the team behind Marietta’s magical transformation has planned long and hard to ensure that creativity extends far beyond your imagination.

If you haven’t already done so, grab your ice skates and hit the ice — figuratively, not literally, that is. In response to last year’s swarm of eager skaters, the ice skating rink opened last month and will remain operating through late February.

Every effort to make Winter Wonderland a richer and bigger experience has been made and as most of us would agree, standing in line for an hour or more simply doesn’t fit that description. To keep the merrymaking moving, families can now book a personalized visit with Santa in advance. The top half of every hour is reserved for online booking, while the bottom half is available for walk-up visits. Either way, this means you don’t have to swap those skates for a long wait.

a family skates together at an ice rink

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Speaking of watching the clock, the countdown to 2017 on New Year’s Eve will have a few new twists this year. Planned as a family event from 2 to 7 p.m., the festivities will include five to six food trucks dishing out bites to keep you warm and sufficiently fueled for hours of endless fun. 

On the east side of Glover Park will be the Resolution Wall, a 30-foot wall built by Blue Sky Exhibits for writing health resolutions on one side, sponsored by WellStar Health System, and financial resolutions on the other side, sponsored by First Command Financial Services.

The park’s south side will play host to an 18-hole, glow-in-the-dark putt putt course while the west side will offer carnival-like games and activities for toddlers to teens. For the adults, a mini-escape room just might entice you to exercise your inner Indiana Jones.

At 4 p.m., the Ice Warriors will take the stage. In the span of roughly 90 minutes, these two world-champion ice carvers will compete against each other to see which one creates the best ice sculpture.

Attention then turns to the cows. Arriving by bus and aptly dubbed “Herd of Cows,” the costumed cattle will perform a 45-minute dance routine that might inspire you to “moo-ve” and groove along with them. Even if you decide not to don your dancing shoes, don’t forget to buy one of the Chick-fil-A cows that will be available for purchase throughout the day because one lucky winner will receive the grand prize of Chick-fil-A a day for a year.

When the cows go home, the party really starts. Music will soon fill the streets with two bands, one of which is Douglas Cameron who is scheduled to play from 10 p.m. ‘till the 8-foot mystery box drops from the crane at midnight. Unlike the typical ball drop in most cities, Marietta’s mystery box highlights a different object every year.

What will it be this year? I have no clue and while I couldn’t get anyone to share even the slightest hint at what it might be, May left me with perhaps the best takeaway yet.

“The spirit of Santa — the holiday season, the traditions, the songs, the spirit of giving — is there. It has always been and always will be. That’s really what you’re celebrating.”

Somewhere in the smile that crept across my face was the realization that even adults can benefit from a visit with Santa and a lingering thought of whether he’s the real deal after all.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION
winterwonderlandmarietta.com