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Although it’s mid-August and the weather is still scorching hot, Lancaster City Council members spent plenty of time this week reflecting on a Christmastime tradition.
At its Tuesday, Aug. 13, meeting, City Council discussed ideas to tweak the annual “Santa Train,” an L&C Railroad-sponsored function that takes children on a festive, yuletide train ride.
The Santa Train ride used to begin at the L&C depot on South Main Street and end in Heath Springs, where the depot there was turned into the “North Pole.”
However, over the last two years, the train ride has been re-routed to end at Elgin Volunteer Fire Department, where children visit Santa and take in other festivities.
Teresa Meeks, the city’s support services director, said staff have been concerned that the city is using hospitality tax money to send people out of the city, versus keeping them in the city.
“This in no way helps our downtown or the local merchants,” Meeks said.
“Members of See Lancaster are very excited to offer an alternative, if council chooses.”
Meeks said an idea is to have “Christmas in the City,” which would feature all the elements historically at the “North Pole” such as Santa’s workshop, a Christmas market and crafts.
The difference is that those activities would be held in downtown Lancaster.
Meeks said downtown businesses have already planned events for the weekend on which the Santa Train normally falls.
The Native American Studies Center, Doster’s Backstreet Studio and Lancaster County Council of the Arts are among the entities planning exhibits and open houses that weekend.
“We would simply partner with them to add our events for a great weekend of Christmas festivities,” Meeks said.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Meeks sought input from City Council members on ways to possibly modify the train route and related activities.
Councilwoman Tamara Green Garris suggested reversing the direction of the ride so that the train begins in Elgin and ends in Lancaster. Then those who rode can enjoy the “Christmas in the City” events downtown.
Councilwoman Sara Eddins suggested starting the train in Lancaster, going to Elgin and riding back to Lancaster for the festivities.
No action on the matter was taken Tuesday, as Meeks, City Administrator Helen Sowell and others simply wanted to gather council’s opinions.
Though there was no decision, it appeared as if the consensus was that the Santra Train will not be phased out.
“For some folks, it’s become a family tradition,” Meeks said. “They do it every year.”
Contact reporter Jesef Williams at (803) 283-1152