Holiday celebration spent with Santa, Mrs. Claus

Friday, December 17, 2010
Charlie Armstrong holds a snow-sprayed pinecone decoration for the Christmas tree set up by his mother, Amber, left, and his father, Dustin, in their Chapel Hill home.

CHAPEL HILL -- Three-year-old Charlie Armstrong didn't want to talk to Santa Claus.

Even the cookies offered by Mrs. Claus didn't seem to tempt him into talking with the big, bearded man in the red suit.

Charlie was among dozens of youngsters at the Henry Horton State Park Inn on Saturday morning when the staff and Friends of Henry Horton State Park offered Christmas tree ornaments, hot chocolate, cookies and individual photos with Santa.

Given his temperament, Charlie was allowed to roam the room under the watchful eyes of his mother, Amber Armstrong of Chapel Hill. Then, for reasons unknown even to Charlie, and certainly not his dad, Dustin Armstrong, the boy warmed to the idea and on his own, approached Santa, stopped saying "No," and enjoyed the a gift of Christmas spirit.

He even got a pinecone sprayed with snow from the Friends of Henry Horton State Park, the advocacy group that's helping with the big, ol' park's renovation.

The state park event was announced as an opportunity to have cocoa with Mrs. Claus, but before the weekend, the state employees realized they might have a special guest.

"The snow is piling up at the North Pole," the park folks said. "Santa is getting restless and ready to pack his bags for a trip.

"Do you think he'll stop here to see Mrs. Claus and the good boys and girls?"

He did and so parents from all around came to the state park inn.

"We brought the grandbabies," said Evan Gooch of Columbia, complimenting Mrs. Claus' gingerbread cookies and those with the image of a green Christmas tree surrounded by the rest of the sugar cookie.

Zachary, Breanna and Elizabeth Gooch, son and daughters of Christopher and Heather Gooch of Columbia, enjoyed the cookies and cocoa, according to grandfather Gooch.

Three-year-old "Elizabeth was afraid" of Santa, Evan Gooch said.

The children also delivered their requests for toys from Santa.

"The one before us said, 'I want an iPod,'" said Evan Gooch who grew up in Idaho. "How quickly they grow up. I was 14 before we got a TV and it was after that that we got a home phone."

Meanwhile, seven-year-old Caitlyn Ridenour "still believes" in the international symbol of Christmas personified by the gift-giving man, according to Teresa Ridenour, wife of Robert Ridenour of Columbia.

Teresa is the park store's sales clerk. Asked "How's business?" she replied, "People don't have a lot of money now, but I'm sure it will pick up after the first of the year."