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Today’s highlights

After they had their picture taken, twins, Maddie and Erik Cathcart, 2, tell Santa what they want for Christmas at River Park Square on Saturday. SR photo/Colin Mulvany

Happy Thursday, everyone. It's almost Christmas, which means we have a couple Christmas-themed stories for you in today's Valley Voice. Correspondent Cindy Hval interviewed Santa, AKA Jim Burney, who has been donning his red, fur-trimmed suit for 39 years. These days he can be found at River Park Square in downtown Spokane. I hear he's even a Seahawks fan. He even dishes about his favorite reindeer in a quick Q&A.

Correspondent Jill Barville was at the Spokane International Airport for a Fantasy Flight to the North Pole for local children. The 63 children on the flight were nominated by local social service agencies. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on autistic Barker High School student Jonathan Finck, who has his colorful art on display in the school's hallway. His fellow students enjoy watching him work.

The city of Spokane Valley is looking at an annual funding shortfall of $3 million for street preservation projects. The city has been spending about $4 million a year but should be spending $7 million, a recent study of street conditions showed.

Bad Santa

My one regret as a parent (Oh, ok, I have a gazillion regrets, but this one particular one wasn’t my fault!), and that is that my two sons never got their picture taken with Santa. We tried but failed miserably. It happened that my first son was born on the 10th of December – a little too young for a picture with Santa, mainly because as a new mother, I was NOT going to let just anyone hold my brand new baby. Not even a jolly old saint of a man, wearing red pajamas and ho-hoing loudly, giggling his large belly. No way.

We settled for dressing the baby in a Santa outfit and placing him under the tree for endless adorable pictures.
When my son was one year old, I figured now was the time. I bathed him, powdered him, lotioned him, dressed him in a new outfit, just for the occasion, and set off for Santa who happened to be sitting in repose at Newberries in Val d’Or Quebec, where my husband was stationed in the Air force. And, yes, this little French Canadian village boasted a Newberries – right out of downtown Spokane, Washington – seemingly. I was looking forward to some English speaking Santa and elves.
We got there, all polished and shining and stood in line for eternity waiting for our chance. So, I don’t know if it was time for a bottle, or time for a new diaper, or time for a nap – I know I needed a nap, and fairly certain my one-year-old needed a nap, and possibly for sure Santa needed a nap too. It was finally our turn, and I started toward the great man of my childhood, so excited! And then suddenly I could feel my son tense in my arms, he took one look at Santa and then slowly held his breath. His face turned red, and then his nose crinkled up, his eyes clenched close, he then made a humming noise, opened his mouth, and WAILED. He sounded like a siren on a careening ambulance, going down for the crash. Arms flaying, legs wagging, lungs screaming. 
I took a hasty retreat down the hallway, leaving my $10 behind me – knowing that this child would NEVER sit on Santa’s lap. 
When I had my second son the following April, I practiced letting him sit on people’s laps, getting used to it before the big day in December. Only now I had two of them and no matter how much I “rehearsed” the picture-taking moment – we had a repeat, down to the last whimper, of the Christmas fiasco of the year before.  Times two!
I just noticed a contest called “Santa Makes Me Pee My Pants A Little” for pictures of those precious moments when our children are flat out terrorized by Santa. I would offer up pictures of my two little ones – but it never happened! And now, the oldest just turned 40 on Monday, I think I’ve lost my chance.

Santa Delivers, Gets $400 Ticket

It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Mike “Finn” Finocchiaro was dressed as Santa. His two daughters – ages 2 and 6 – were done up as elves, as were his wife and sister. In the back of the truck were boxes full of presents for the children at St. Margaret’s Shelter, a safe space for families wrestling with homelessness, domestic violence and other chaos. At first, Finn pulled up in front of the shelter on Hartson, but was told it would be better to leave that spot – the closest to the front door – open. He pulled into the empty parking lot – and into one of three open handicapped spots. “I never, ever park in handicapped spots,” Finn said. “Never, ever, ever.” Except this time. A shelter worker had told him to park wherever he needed to, he had a bunch of presents to unload, and he figured he’d be in and out in a short enough time that no one would be hurt, he said/Shawn Vestal, SR. More here.

Question: How often do you see abled people parking in a handicap spot?

Tracking Santa on radar

This is a fun thing for the kids. The annual North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Santa page is up and running and will track Santa on Christmas Eve as he makes his way across the globe. Tracking will begin at midnight (MST); click here to see the site. It also includes games and activities in multiple languages. There are free Santa tracking apps in the iTunes store and the Android market if you want to follow Santa's progress on your phone.

According to a press release from the American Forces Press Service, this all started in 1955 when Sears published an ad that included a phone number to call Santa. The phone number was misprinted, though, and children ended up calling the Continental Air Defense Command operations center (which preceded NORAD). The colonol on duy went along with the requests, giving kids updates on Santa's location.  Now the annual effort includes more than a thousand volunteers and dozens of sponsors.

With that, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I probably won't post again until Tuesday.

Ready, set… Santa!

For the ninth year in a row, Hillyard Santa is getting ready to distribute gifts to children in Northeast Spokane. The first distribution days are Thursday Dec. 15 and Friday Dec. 16. And then he's back for one more round all next week - from Dec. 19 through Dec. 23 - supplies and gifts permitting.

Tree’s up on South Perry

Lots of neighbors big and small, young and old, gathered at the Perry Street Cafe last night for the annual Christmas tree lighting. The cafe genorously hosted the event, serving coffee, hot chocolate and cookies for everyone. And Santa was busy having his picture taken.

Once the indoor commotion had calmed down, people went outside to sing carols and put ornaments on the Christmas tree.

Farmers Market is still open

The South Perry Farmers market is still open every Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. The market's winter location is in the Buddhist Temple gym, just across the street from The Shop (915 S. Perry Street).

On December 22 the market plans a special holiday market, complete with Santa, carolers and lots of local gift ideas.

The market will close for the season after the Dec. 22 event and reopen on March 1, 2012.

Santa Claus is coming to town

The Spokane Valley Fire Department's Santa van is ready to roll again. The white van squires Santa around the Spokane Valley area every winter, giving kids a chance to visit the red-robed one and whisper what they want for Christmas in his ear.

The van will be making the rounds every night from 6 to 8 p.m. beginning Tuesday and going through Dec. 22. I'll post the schedule for the first few nights now, with more to follow later.

Tuesday: north of Sprague to Mission between Pines and Evergreen

Wednesday: south of 32nd to 44th between University and Sullivan

Thursday: south of Sprague to 16th between Havana and Argonne

Friday: south of Mission to 16th between Flora and Barker

Saturday: south of 16th to 32nd between Dishman-Mica Road and Pines

NI Blogs: Bad Mall Santa Encounter

"Works almost every time," writes Marianne Love/Slight Detour. "A walk through virtually any portion of the vast Kootenai Valley serves as an antidote to the blahs.  Yesterday was no exception." More photos/text here.

Top Blog Post: The other day, I was with my mom and nieces at one of the malls in our area.  The girls wanted to see Santa, so we waited in line to see him.  I started to wonder about this Santa long before we got in to see him, because he makes the kids stand in front of him and tell them what they would like for Christmas, instead of sitting next to him in his giant chair, or sitting on his knee.  Well, I guess he lets those paying to get their picture taken with him sit on his knee, but they are the only ones/Live, Love, Laugh, Hope. More here.

HucksOnline Blog number (for week of Nov. 27-Dec. 3): 45,753/28,806

Question: Have your kids ever had a close encounter w/a bad store Santa?

Joker: Santa vs. Kootenai County Dems


Joker on December 21 at 2:49 p.m.

In the spirit of Christmas, let's compare Kootenai County Democrats to Santa Claus.
Santa is real, Democrats here are only figments of liberal imagination. Advantage: Santa.
Santa is adored by tens of thousands of people. Only a few thousand vote For Democrats. Advantage: Santa.
Santa delivers presents and makes dreams come true. Democrats never deliver, but they keep dreaming. Advantage: Santa.
Santa wears red, Democrats wear blue. Advantage: Santa. Nobody wants a blue Christmas.
Santa returns every year. The Democrats forget to put candidates on the ballot most years. Advantage: Santa.
Santa has to squeeze down chimneys to arrive. Democrats go down easy. Advantage: push.
Santa hires little people. Democrats look down on the regular people. Advantage: Santa.
Merry Christmas!

 I know there are Democrats in Kootenai County, I've met both of them.  But seriously, how long do you think it will be before another Dem holds office in Kootenai Co?

South Perry Farmers Market open

The market is open on Thursday Dec. 23 from 3-6 p.m. in the building just north of the Buddhist Temple (923 S. Perry Street). Brian Estes sent an e-mail this morning saying that Santa will be there - so you can still get your photo taken with him. There will also be fresh Christmas turkeys available along with crafts and other food items, as well as live music.

Santa got there

- and the room fell completely quiet. As soon as the jolly old guy got himself situated, he made his lap available to kids of all ages and wishes of all sizes.

Santa is a little delayed

Due to congested airspace during this busy holiday season, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be a little later than planned tonight: they will get to the Perry Street Cafe at 7 p.m.
The Christmas tree lighting and decorating gets underway at 5:30 p.m. The Perry Street Cafe is collecting Toys For Tots - please bring a new and unwrapped toy for the donation bin.
Also, the South Perry Business and Neighborhood Association is sponsoring a sock and boot drive to help cold students at Grant Elementary School - there will be a bin at the tree tonight - boots are really badly needed in this weather.
Donations or not, everyone is welcome - the cafe will be serving hot beverages and once we’ve said hello to Santa, a group of neighbors will go caroling in the neighborhood. See you tonight.

Santa Claus is coming to town

And he is most certainly making his list and checking it twice. The jolly red-robed one will be touring neighborhoods in Fire District 8 south of the Spokane and Spokane Valley city limits every night this week. Since his reindeer are resting up for the big night, he will be ferried around by a fire engine.

He’ll be making the rounds from 5:30 to 8 p.m. today through Wednesday. Here’s the schedule: Today - Ponderosa neighborhood south of 44th Ave.; Tuesday - Painted Hills and Bella Vista neighborhoods, plus the Albertsons parking lot at 32nd and Highway 27; Wednesday - Saltese and Morningside neighborhoods.

The rest of the week he’ll be out and about from 5 to 8 p.m.: Thursday - Moran Prairie east of Regal and south of 57th and the Hangman Valley area; Friday - Moran Prairie west of Regal and north of 57th; Saturday - Moran Prairie west of Regal and south of 57th; Sunday - Moran Prairie east of Regal and north of 57th and the Hangman Valley area.

Any schedule updates can be found on the district’s web site.  

Santa Clyde got started today

There was a line in the parking lot outside Bank of America’s Hillyard branch even before it opened today. But people were not lined up to refinance their mortgages, they were lined up to get a toy for their children from Hillyard Santa, Clyde Decker.
Bank of America has lent him a vault downstairs and he expects to have enough toys for more than 3,000 kids.
“I don’t give away all the good stuff at the beginning, I try to space it out,” said Decker, who takes donations all year and also spends some of his Social Security check on toys for kids. “People see me shopping and they say, boy, you must have a lot of grand kids. And I say yes, about 600.”
Decker is at the bank every day during opening hours through Dec. 23 - and no, he’s not sure he’s got enough toys. Word on the street this morning was that more than 500 families that usually are served by Spokane Valley Partners’ toy donations, may turn to Santa Clyde. Spokane Valley Partners are not giving out toys this year. Hillyard Lions and Kiwanis are helping Decker out this year - both with donations and with  managing the long line of people.
“Some want this to just be for Hillyard, but I don’t,” said Decker, while showing off the vault. “I want it to be for everyone.” Recipients must bring ID and proof of address to receive gifts.

Santas congregate in Hillyard

The Hillyard North Pole continues this weekend, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. The North Pole is located at The River Church, 5201 N. Market Street - bring a food donation and get a deal on your pictures with Santa.
Then on Monday, Clyde Decker aka Hillyard Santa, begins handing out this year’s round of presents for northeast kids. The presents are all stored at Bank of America’s branch in Hillyard and Decker and his elfs will be ready at 10 a.m. Please don’t bring any children on Monday - Santa is guarding the magic.

The big guy is here

Walking back to the paper from an interview earlier today I came across Santa enjoying a beverage (coffee, I’m sure) outside Starbucks. How could I resist taking that picture?
So what are your holidays plans this year? Do you have Perry specific holiday traditions? Do you know the Christmas tree lighting is on the 15th, on the corner at the Perry Street Cafe? Have you put ligths up yet? Send the blog a note and some pictures at piah@spokesman.com

He’s getting ready for the North Pole

Walking through downtown I saw good old Santa taking a little break outside a coffee shop. He was reading the paper and enjoying what looked like a latte - I’m sure he’s getting ready for the Hillyard North Pole this weekend.

The North Pole, with shopping, bake sale, fun and pictures with Santa is at The River Church, 5201 N. Market Street, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Same hours next weekend - ho, ho, ho.

Santa hits the road

The jolly man himself is planning a couple of stops in the Valley area this weekend as kids start polishing their Christmas lists and trying to behave. Because he KNOWS if you’ve been bad or good.

Santa will make an appearance at the annual Millwood Christmas tree lighting Friday at 6 p.m. at Inland Empire Paper, 3320 N. Argonne. The event will include a performance by The Company Ballet Dane Troupe. There will also be hot chocolate, cookies and caroling.

On Saturday Santa is expected to attend a breakfast hosted by the Spokane Valley Rotary Club from 9 to 11 a.m. at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place. The morning includes carnival games, face painting and goody bags. Kids can have their pictures taken with Santa, who is expected to arrive at 9:30 a.m. on an engine from Spokane Valley Fire. (The reindeer have to rest up for Christmas Eve.) The breakfast is $4 at the door.

Santa is coming to Hillyard this weekend

The Hillyard North Pole opens this weekend. This is the Hillyard shopping district’s main Christmas celebration and it runs this weekend and next. The event will feature vendors, treats and a bake sale - as well as pictures with Santa, of course.
Bring a canned food donation to the food bank and get a deal on your picture with Santa. The blog will be there on Saturday around noon. Note that the North Pole is in a new location: The River Church, 5201 N. Market Street.
Hours are Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. - this weekend and next. For information call: (509) 487-1138.

Tis the Season

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas out there. Spokesman-Review photographer Bart Rayniak took this photo at Sprague and Sullivan while he was out and about this weekend. Is it just me or does it almost look like Santa is ready to pounce?

Hillyard’s Santa needs a hand

Here’s a link to yesterday’s story about Clyde Decker and the incredibly job he does every year, collecting Christmas presents for kids in Hillyard - he can always use more. And don’t forget about the Hillyard North Pole - it’s coming up on December 4 and 5, and December 11 and 12.

Free pictures with Santa

Once we get through Thanksgiving it will be time to think about taking the kids to have their picture taken with Santa. Triple R Auctions will host “A Little Bit of Christmas” and offer free pictures with the jolly fellow on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day at 107 N. Park Road. Those who are financially able to make a donation are asked to bring a non-perishable food item for the food bank or a new toy for the Toys for Tots program.

Hillyard’s North Pole is ready to roll

Hillyard’s traditional North Pole Celebration will be held at The River Church, 5201 N. Market Street this year. The festival includes treats and vendors, shopping opportunities and of course a visit from Santa. Have your pictures taken with Santa in Hillyard this year. The North Pole is open on Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Dec. 5 from noon to 4 p.m. It’s also open on Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Dec. 12 from noon-4 p.m. For questions or to inquire about a booth or a vendor table call Vickie at (509) 487-1138.

Tuesday fun video: Seasonal stuff

If Santa didn’t make it to your house this year, here’s why:

APhoto of the Day

This Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 image made from video released by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department shows a man dressed as Santa robbing the Sun Trust Bank in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Metropolitan Nashville Police Department)

Top cutlines:

#1 On the way out of the bank, the robber Santa could be heard singing “Fleeced Navidad”. JohnA.

#2 “Times are tuff lady! Do you know the cost of reindeer food has gone up two-fold and with the economy this year there wont be enough milk and cookies to feed all my elves through till next Christmas.. Now, NO dye packs dammit!” coeurgenx

#3 Sorry, miss. That Brodwater kid wants another Star Wars Legos set. Taryn Hecker

Christmas Traditions We Could do Without

Does anyone really enjoy Secret Santa? Is mistletoe just an excuse to grope the unsuspecting?

Here’s some Christmas traditions some could do without:

Secret Santa: Here’s the way Secret Santa should work: everyone in the office brings a $20, puts it in a hat, the hat gets shuffled up, and everyone takes out a $20. And then you say “Hey, $20! I can really use that! Thanks, Secret Santa!” and you go back to online shopping at your desk.

Leaving Anything Other than Cookies for Santa: Okay, you can get away with a carrot for the reindeer, but beyond that? Things are out of hand. The elves want midget porn, Ms. Claus wants some Midol, Frosty the Snowman’s looking for something from one of the local dispensaries to fill that corncob pipe. Everyone’s got their hands out nowadays.

More here.

(Though I totally disagree with the one about no stockings for your pets. Like Santa would forget Milo!)

Spilling the Beans about Santa

I have a friend who told his kids from the time they were little that there was no such thing as Santa. He’s not one of those people who think Santa is the anti-Christ. He’s also not one to protest the commercialization of the holidays. He and his wife simply didn’t want to lie to their kids, he said.

In this San Jose Mercury News story,

<a href=http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment/ci_11220771“>Does the Santa Claus story need a makeover?</a> reporter Lisa Fernandez interviewed parents about their Santa practices at home. She also poses the question: “Is Santa an elaborate lie that is the ultimate symbol of the holiday’s commercialization? Or does he represent the imagination and innocence of childhood that should be preserved until puberty?”

About 96 percent of children younger than 5 think Santa is real, according to a poll conducted by a parenting group called Family Education. By the time they’re ages 8 to 10, more than half no longer believe.

As a child, did you write letters to Santa? How about your own kids? Do they believe? When did you spill the beans about Santa Claus?

Santa’s… to sexy for his hat…

It’s Santa Claus—L.A. style…

At the Beverly Center mall in L.A., shoppers won’t find a jolly old bearded elf Fri-Sun nights.  instead they will find a 6-foot-1, 185-pound “Hunky Santa” played by Eli Wilhide. 

Shoppers who sit on this Santa’s lap can get nutrition and exercise tips, or advice on what to get the wife or girlfriend.  (My advice would be not to sit in some hunk’s lap while shopping for your wife or girlfriend…)

From an article by By Laura T. Coffey at the Today Show:  He’s “gorgeous,” said one woman who recently posed for a photo on his lap. “Illegally gorgeous.”

QUESTION:  Did you sit on Santa’s lap this year?