WINTERSVILLE - Some Christmas traditions are handed down from one generation of a family to another, while others are carried on from year to year by a small number of volunteers.
In its 34th year, the Ray Laman Christmas Party falls into that second category. Wintersville Police Chief Ed Laman recalled his father started the event in the late 1970s, while serving on Wintersville Council.
"He really loved it. It was all about the kids," said Laman, who recalled assisting his father with the help of George Kelchak, a young neighbor who has since moved to Las Vegas, and others.
A FAMILIAR VISITOR — Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was among special guests at the Ray Laman Christmas Party Saturday at the Wintersville Fire and Rescue Department.— Staff photo
"The first one, we didn't have may kids. We had more talent than kids," Laman said, noting students from a local dance school performed for the occasion.
He added the party was held for a number of years at Wintersville Elementary School before it was moved to the Wintersville Fire and Rescue Department. The additional space available at the fire station has been appreciated, as the number of attendees has grown, Laman said.
"The fire department's a big help. It's nice they opened it up to us," he said.
Laman noted the party is open to anyone but invitations are delivered to the three nearest elementary schools by the police department. The letters themselves are composed by Pam Damos, the party's coordinator, he noted.
Damos became involved 28 years ago, when she assisted Village Councilman Gene Cerra, who took over after Laman died in 1991.
The party was named for Laman at that time.
Before Cerra died, he asked Damos to promise she would carry it on," she recalled.
Damos said it's continued through the support of many, including the Wintersville American Legion Auxiliary. Members of the group were on hand to help in distributing toys and goodie bags to the children following the arrival of Santa Claus.
Singer-guitarist Kenny Wells occupied the children while they waited by performing a variety of Christmas songs.
A regular at the event, Wells often calls children up to try playing a guitar, tambourine or jingle bells.
Mrs. Claus, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman also were on hand to greet everyone.
After the event, Damos and her helpers planned to deliver toys and goodie bags to children at Trinity Medical Center West.
She expressed thanks to the many residents and businesses who have made contributions for the party.
Michelle Moodie, a member of the Wintersville Fire Department, remembers going to the party with her mother when it was held at Wintersville Elementary School. On Saturday she was there with her twin 7-year-old sons, Chris and Chase; and 3-year-old son, Reid.
Village Council President Robbie Martin said he always brought his children to the party over the years and on Saturday he had the pleasure of attending with his 3-year-old granddaughter Alexah, who was visiting from Georgia.
"It's a very nice event," Martin said, adding he's thankful to the many who have worked to keep it going over the years.