Mrs. Claus (played by Judy Young), Santa Claus (Steve Kovecsi), and Raegan Baker, 15 months old, take a picture during the 'Santa in the Caboose" event at Griffith Historical Park. | Scott M. Bort~For Sun-Times Media
IF YOU GO
What: “Santa in the Caboose”
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15; noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16
Where: Griffith Historical Park, 201 S. Broad St.
Note: This is a free event; pictures with Santa will be available for a small charge.
During this time of Christmas traditions, there’s one the Hamilton family of Merrillville puts first on its calendar.
That is the annual “Santa in the Caboose” event at Griffith Historical Park, near the Broad Street railroad tracks. It includes a bake sale, photos in a little red caboose with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a chance to look at railroad nostalgia in the old depot.
“Each year, when we come with the kids, I enjoy myself, too,” John Hamilton said as he looked at miniature train cars in a glass case in the depot. “We used to have a train around the bottom of our Christmas tree when I was growing up, and I’ve never lost my fascination with those cars winding round and round.”
Dozens of families found this same type of enjoyment as they shopped for homemade cookies and enjoyed hot chocolate. Besides the caboose, three other old train cars, donated to the Historical Society, are on tracks near the depot. One of them, which was used years ago to transport soldiers, served as the waiting room for those wanting photos with the Clauses.
“My daughter, Toni, is volunteering as a reindeer today, so I decided to bring the other kids to see Santa,” said Tom Ryan of Griffith, as Tyler 7, and Ella, 2, practiced what they would tell the big man. “It’s important that these young volunteers know that what they do is important. It gives them a good feeling.”
About 12 youths ushered families to the caboose and waved to cars passing by the depot. Drivers delayed on Broad Street by passing trains were entertained by the young volunteers.
The annual celebration, sponsored by the Griffith Historical Society, began about 30 years ago as a way to get families together, away from the hustle and bustle of malls and department stores, to spend quality time.
Friends Alex Almaraz, 10, Braylin Welk, 11, and Jenna Dye, 10, were dressed were in costume as Spike the Railroad Reindeer and his elf buddies, respectively.
“I like helping people, and this is fun,” Braylin said as she greeted cars entering the depot parking lot.
Historical Society members and volunteers made items for the bake sale, and the tables attracted a steady stream of customers, many of them repeat visitors.
“Our ‘Santa in the Caboose’ event has become very popular; we offer something different than the usual,” said GHS president Shirley Welch. “It’s a fun time for everyone.”