Santa hears wishes of eager Niles children

Published 8:30 am Monday, November 22, 2004

By By SPIROS GALLOS / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Cold winds and light rain couldn't deter hundreds of children who wanted to divulge their Christmas wishes to Santa Claus at the Riverfront Park Amphitheater Saturday.
The only things missing at Riverfront Park were a blanket of snow on the ground and a reindeer-pulled sleigh.
The children, with parents in tow, waited patiently in a line which stretched back to the Riverfront Park parking lot for Santa to arrive. At about a quarter to 11 a.m., Santa arrived, riding in a red fire truck from the Niles City Fire Department.
Once he was settled into his chair on stage, flanked by his two elves, Santa sat and listened to the children as they told the man in red what they wanted for Christmas.
Patricia Padilla of Niles brought her two grandsons, Trevor Padilla, 7, and Devon Neal, 5, to see Santa on Saturday.
Trevor asked Santa for an Air-Hog, a remote-controlled airplane, while Devon asked for some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures.
Patricia said it was Trevor's second time seeing Santa and Devon's first.
Mandy Latislaw of Niles, who brought her younger brother, Christian Cain, 6, and her son, Toby Latislaw, 4, said visiting Santa in Riverfront Park is an annual event for her family.
After talking to Santa, children received a coloring book and a candy cane.
As families made their way off the stage, free coffee, hot chocolate and donut holes were offered.
In previous years, the event, which is sponsored by the Four Flags Area Chamber of Commerce, was held at the Niles Amtrak Depot. The event was moved to Riverfront Park two years ago after the amphitheater was built.
Ron Sather, the Chamber's president and CEO, said the move to Riverfront Park was good because the event was becoming to large for the train station.
Niles resident Kevin Brazo played the role of Santa this year. Sather asked Brazo if he would be Santa after hearing that Brazo and his wife Trish, who married about a month ago, want to have eight children.
Sather said playing the role of Santa would be good practice for Brazo.
The event, which was held for the 20th year in a row, drew an average crowd of between 500 and 600 children, Sather said as the last children made their way across the stage to talk to Santa.
Although many of the people who came to meet Santa on Saturday told him what they wanted, others let Santa know what they wanted through more traditional means.
Raven Gross, 9, handed Santa a list she had prepared before the event, preferring not to speak to the jolly old soul.
After some encouragement from her dad, Kurt Shepard, Raven revealed one of the items on her list was a Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP.
Shepard said the event was a great thing for the City of Niles.
Sather, who thanks event sponsors for their contributions, said the event kicks off the holiday activities season in Niles.