By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
Mary Ann and Karl Krause of Santa Paula were unabashed about being past the age that one would expect to see waiting outside the Depot in nippy weather to see a special guest.
“We came,” said Mary Ann, “to see Santa.... “
Saturday evening Santa Claus was indeed coming to Santa Paula, leaving his reindeer and sleigh home to ride in style on a Fillmore & Western Railway car for an abbreviated tour that started at Montalvo, then stopped at Montgomery/North Bank and Saticoy before coming into Santa Paula for a hearty “Ho, ho, ho!” as well as visit and some great photo ops with the children.
Fillmore & Western owner Dave Wilkinson said there had been big crowds along the route that also acts as a chance to collect toys for the Ventura County Sheriff’s drive to provide holiday presents for needy children.
“This is our 16th year,” of taking Santa Claus for the visits that Wilkinson said he enjoys as much as the kids that were scrambling to get close to Old St. Nick.
Wilkinson admitted to also being a fan: “Do I still believe in Santa? I’m here, aren’t I?”
Cries of “Santa Claus!” from children and adults greeted the train and caboose from which Santa hopped off to mingle.
Each child received a candy cane and posed with Santa, a scene that brought back memories-and a dose of the present-for Maggie Ritz of Santa Paula.
“We brought kids to see Santa,” she noted. “Now they bring their kids!”
Helpers included Bill Bartels whose son Nico Bartels was an elf. Bill’s spouse, attorney Laura Bartels, entered into an extremely limited faux marital partnership with Santa so he would have a Mrs. Claus-albeit it a slender one-by his side for the evening.
Mike Hernandez of Santa Paula said his 5-year-old son Sam, “Is always excited, but then doesn’t know what to say,” when faced with the jovial Santa.
Nine-year-old Amber Wineman of Newbury Park wasn’t shy about greeting Santa or asking for extra candy canes for older, less Santa savvy relatives.
Soon it was time for Santa to leave for his last stop at Fillmore where more children were waiting for his arrival.
For information about the Fillmore & Western Railway Co. holiday train schedule, go online to http://www.fwry.com or call 524-2546.