Christmas in Christiansted Keeps Kids Happy in Times Square

Dec. 16, 2006 — Times Square transformed into a winter wonderland Saturday night, just in time for Santa to visit and a bevy of happy kids to come frolicking.
Volunteers for St. Croix Foundation's Christmas in Christiansted pulled out all the stops decorating the area once known as the hub of St. Croix, filling it with inflatable snowmen and balls filled with falling snow. Lights and other displays helped project the spirit of Christmas as people from every background mingled with their children.
The community choir Joyful Voices and students from St. Mary's School spread holiday cheer with soulful renditions of Christmas carols. At other times, strains of "Jingle Bells" and "Frosty the Snowman" emanated from speakers in the square. Also scheduled to sing was the social group Gentlemen of Jones, which followed its annual tradition of putting up the Christmas lights for the event.
Saturday's festivities offered something for every child. Some posed for photos with Santa, while others waited for Christmas cookies, popcorn, pizzas and cold drinks distributed by volunteers with the foundation.
Roger Dewey, who heads the foundation, thanked the volunteers for putting on an event that was clearly a hit with those who mattered the most — the children.
"This gets people back to Times Square," he said. "This used to be Sunday market square, where people would gather, and we want to bring back activities to the area — not only for them to enjoy, but for economic activity."
The foundation owns a block of buildings in the square that had to be refurbished following Hurricane Hugo in 1989. Until the dilapidated buildings got a makeover, beginning in the late '90s, they had largely been an eyesore.
Dewey praised board member and volunteer Jill Ramsey for envisioning Christmas in Christiansted. For the past few years Ramsey has staged Kiddie Carnival in Times Square, another foundation tradition. On Saturday she and fellow Christmas in Christiansted organizer Elizabeth O'Tool were thrilled with the turnout.
"It's a huge success to see young children and their families out enjoying themselves," said Ramsey, a mother herself.
As children entered Times Square from King Street, they could pose with Santa and then take their free Polaroid prints to a Craft Corner — a large tent with decorated tables. There they could make a Christmas ornament using the photo. On one table, volunteers Linda Tanner and Emily Smith, dressed as an elf, helped children pick out a cardboard frame designed with drawings of coconut trees, Santa and presents.
Sisters Merina and Karima McIntyre were busy using one of the hundreds of crayons available to color the drawings.
Merina, 8, attends Evelyn Williams Elementary School and said that she could not wait for Monday to tell her classmates what they missed.
"It was exciting to see Santa Claus and get free pizza and Christmas cookies," she said with a smile. "They missed something nice."
That was all volunteers hoped for, Tanner said: "They're thrilled. They're all so happy and excited about Christmas. Smiles all around — that's all the thanks we need."
At another table, Kimorah James, 7, of St. Mary's Catholic School, had painted the leaves of her coconut tree green, Santa red and the three gifts under the tree in various colors, including yellow and purple. Then she glued her Polaroid shot with Santa on the back of the frame before gliding a glue stick all around the sides to seal her photo inside. Finally she weaved a red ribbon in the tiny hole provided at the top of the frame, making her ornament ready for hanging.
James had other ideas, however.
"I'm going to give it to my big sister as a present," she said.
In addition to the ornaments, cookies, popcorn and pizza, children also received song books with traditional children's Christmas carols like "Jingle Bells," "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman," Ramsey said.
For those who stayed through the three-hour event from 4 to 7 p.m., Ramsey offered one final treat. During the last hour, the television production of "Frosty the Snowman" was projected on a wide makeshift screen that hung in an area just below the awnings of what had been a theater years ago.
The foundation hopes to use it again as a real theater, Dewey said, indicating that work is already underway toward that end.
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