For his fifth time now, Santa chose to leave his sleigh at home, arriving at Mid's Park atop a shinny red fire engine to greet the long line of kids and parents waiting to pitch him with their Christmas wishes.
"I think this year the Holiday Stroll turned a corner on critical mass," said Mike Beglin of Beglin's Lake Placid Jewelers. "It's an established event that people look forward to now."
If the line of kids snaking from the top of Mid's Park down Main Street was any good indication, it certainly was a success. Another indication was the people out sampling treats offered by several restaurants, and strolling about with their hands full of shopping bags.
"Over 300 people attended the skating event at the '32 Arena," said M.J. Lawrence, director of sales and marketing for the Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau. "More than 100 attended the storytelling. We sold more than 140 hotel-stroll packages. As you can see, lots of locals are out shopping and there is a huge line for Santa. This year, we introduced several new events. You can make your own medal at the Olympic Museum. We have strolling ambassadors giving our inaugural stroll pin. Ronnie the Raccoon is here. We are celebrating our Olympic heritage as well as the holidays!"
My first stop was to taste some amazing cookies and pick up a cup of Dunkin' Donuts hot chocolate from Mary Dietrich. Once warmed up, I dove into the line of kids to learn what they planned to request from Santa.
"I want a Lego Battleship Star Wars Star Fighter," said Zachary.
"I don't know," said his sister Fiona.
"No idea?" I said. "None at all?"
She thought. "A Poke," she said.
"What's that?" I asked her mother Jenn Holderied
"I have no idea," said Jenn. "Hopefully Santa will know and tell me."
Best I could tell later from a Google search, was this is one of a series of Pokeman toys, some of which look like balls but turn into something else entirely when poked.
A young girl named Clara was the next up to see Santa. "What will you ask for?" I wanted to know.
"Glitter glue and a princess dress," said Clara.
"Mommy, I want my mommy," said Ollie.
"I am right here sweetheart," said his mommy, Jen Boutelle.
"I want my mommy for Christmas," Ollie repeated.
"Just wait 'til next year!" I whispered to Jen. "What about you?" I asked a young boy, the next in line.
"I want a Lego Forest Ranger," said Gunner.
"And you?" I asked another.
"A Nintendo DS," said Elsie. That again sent me back to Google. I learned a Nintendo DS is a computer gaming system.
"I want a skate board and a regular size bike," said the next.
"What kind of a bike?" I asked.
"A racing bike."
"And your name is?"
"Really! The John Lansing I know is a lot older, has grey hair and a moustache," I said.
"That's my grandpa," he answered.
"I want a Wii video game," said his sister Ellen.
I looked at their mother for help by she said, "I have no idea." Turns out a Wii is one of a series of video games that run on the Nintendo player.
"I am Blake Macintosh and I want a pirate ship," said Blake Macintosh with a good deal of authority.
At last I had a clear idea of what someone wanted! "Do you plan to be a pirate when you grow up?"
"No, I just want the ship," said Blake. I had visions of it lurking beyond Plymouth Rock carrying Blake and his pals waiting to accost and board "Thing 1" and "The Thing 2," which is what Jim Burrows calls the two pontoon boats, with which Serge Lussi has replaced Doris, the old wooden sightseeing boat that took people on hour-long tours of Lake Placid. I might add that, when I was a teenager, a horde of my friends dressed up as Indians came out from behind Pulpit Rock in a fleet of canoes, successfully captured the Doris, and tossed its two-member crew into the lake.
Deciding I did not want to confuse my 20th century mind further with 21st century requests, I headed for High Peaks Resort. En route, I ran into Twig, aka Mike McGlynn escorting his mom Edith.
"So what would you like for Christmas?" I asked Edith when we had done with the introductions.
"He's no longer the handsomest of my children, but I just love his personality," said Edith of Twig, "Christmas? I want my car."
"To have it registered," offered a pink-faced Twig. "Mom just moved back to New York from Colorado."
Moving right along, I ran into Josef, with his parents Martha and John Spear. "What do you want for Christmas?" I asked.
"A DX," he answered. Clearly Santa has his work cut out for him this year. For you who have inquiring minds, I later learned DXs are a series of collectible action figurines ranging from wrestle-mania wrestling stars to Batman's nemesis, The Joker.
I restored myself eating tasty organic squash soup served up by Wynde Reese of the New Scape Cafe, to open January 2nd in the Placid Pond center, the buildings under construction on Saranac Avenue where the Charcoal Pit was once located. Next I sampled a scrumptious omelets served up by the Breakfast Club. I then managed to zig-zag my way up the street, and down to the lower level of High Peaks Resort where kids were engaged in all manner of art projects in a room filled with picnic tables, and proud parents busy photographing them. The flashing camera lights gave me the impression of being on the red carpet at the Oscars.
In the midst of all this, Erin Perkins was helping kids whip together red and green paper garlands. "How's it going?" I asked.
"I think this has become a looked-forward-to annual holiday event," she said, echoing Mike Beglin's words of a couple hours earlier. Indeed it has.