By Rebekah K. Bohannon Beeler
Rows and rows of twinkly-eyed children, patient parents and loving grandparents filled the Crossville Model Railroad Exhibit and spilled out into the lobby of Crossville Outlet Mall on Monday, Dec. 2 for the long awaited appearance of Santa and Mrs. Claus. Mrs. Claus read The Polar Express and she and Santa had their pictures made professionally with each child as the Model Railroad Club’s gift to the children of Crossville.
“In my four years with the organization, this is the largest turnout yet,” said John Benedetti, Crossville Model Railroad Club member. There were so many children, in fact, that the mall president was called to approve moving Mrs. Claus’ reading of Christmas favorite, The Polar Express, into the lobby area outside the Model RR Exhibit so everyone could listen and enjoy. “Then with parents and grandparents the attendance adds up real fast,” Benedetti continued. Regarding the line to see Santa, Benedetti said, “It’s going to be a while, but I will say they are all being very patient.”
It may as well have been Whoville, with many of the children dressed in their Christmasy best. Sweet, tiny ones were wearing Santa suits and hats, good little gals kept occupied by twirling in their Christmas dresses, adorable tikes sporting their little elf shoes, bells, bows and mini plaid neck ties. The line curled around like an oversized candy cane from the exhibit to the lobby, striped with all the green and red colored apparel.
A large tree set in the window of the exhibit was decorated with model train cars, drawing the attention of many curious little hands and noses pressed against the glass for a closer look. The Polar Express train model ran alongside the photography site as Santa and Mrs. Claus took great care in collecting the children’s Christmas lists and posing for the camera to capture the Christmas memories. The children were given a bag of candy after getting their pictures made by Santa’s elves, The Choo Choo Gals Auxiliary.
Professional photographer and Crossville Model Railroad Club member, Pat Taylor, offered his services to the club to take the pictures and provide each child a picture with Santa for free. “I am now retired, so I can do fun things like this and not have to work,” Taylor said, impressed by the massive turnout and happy to give back with his photography. “When it’s fun, it isn’t work. And this is fun.”
Club members kept a ticker tab counting each and every visitor. In two and a half hours, they had tallied up more than 300 revelers.
“We almost decided not to do the Santa visit this year because not many came to last year’s. So, we thought we’ll publicize it a little bit; did some flyers and newspaper ads. We never expected so many to come out but we are so thrilled they did,” said Dick Carmack, Crossville Model RR Club member and one of the board directors. Carmack lifted up five-year-old Zuranda Beeler who was straining to see the train display and continued, “And it worked!”
Hopefully the Crossville Model RR Club will continue the annual tradition of making Christmas extra special with a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus now that it is more likely that the children of Crossville will be looking forward to it every year. To see the enchanting Christmas display visit the Crossville Model RR Exhibit at the Crossville Outlet Mall Tuesday - Sunday noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. Check out the website for updates, events or to make reservations at www.crossvillemodelrrclub.org.