STRING LIGHTS lined the recreation hall, transforming the simple room into a warm and welcoming place for all to come. The sweet smell of fresh baked cookies drifted through the air each time the door opened, letting a new face inside. Children, parents, friends, and grandparents scattered themselves around. Everyone was busy with something. Some were decorating gingerbread cookies. Others stood in line waiting for their turn to climb up on the beloved Santa’s lap. Whether it was just for a quick picture or for a more serious conversation about wish lists, children lined the hall. There were a few who were fairly timid. Instead of greeting him face-to-face, they opted to write a letter to Santa at the letter-writing station. When finished, each child had the opportunity to walk their letter over to Santa’s special mailbox. Supposedly, the letters were sent magically to the North Pole–no time to keep the elves waiting! Tims Ford State Park’s annual Christmas at the Park for 2022 will be no different. This year, it’s on December 9.
Park Manager Shawn Settle shared, “This event has been a tradition at Tims long before I came here. We see it as an added opportunity to get the community together and to spread some Christmas cheer. I think hosting this event shows the community and kind of reminds people that, yes, we are a state organization, but in all reality, we’re the kind of park that’s here for people in our local area. I always tell our rangers: ‘If we’re not doing our best to serve the people around us, then we’re not doing our job.’ We want our locals to be the primary users of the park here, and this event is one way to serve them.”
The park will serve simple sweet treats, cookies, and hot chocolate to all its visiting guests. Then, once the cookies are gone, one of the most endearing segments of Christmas at the Park begins. It happens each year when one of the park rangers, typically Ranger Dalton Smith, reads “The Night Before Christmas.” All of the children, including his own, squeeze in close. It’s quiet.
All you can hear is the fire crackling from the fireplace. (Okay, maybe some murmurings of busy toddlers, but still.) The atmosphere in the room is peaceful and calm. The temperature is toasty warm, the perfect contrast compared to the frigid air outside. Smith begins to read, and just for a moment, all of life’s worries fade to the background. Everyone in the room, regardless of age, is struck by the tender spirit of Christmas. All feels right.
Park Ranger Mark Matzkiw, the ranger who organizes the event, shared, “Each year, it’s really fun to see all the kids coming in to talk to Santa. They are excited about Christmas, so it is really sweet to see them there, writing their letters and enjoying themselves.” Merry Christmas from the Tims Ford State Park! GN