Mrs. Claus, also known as Linda Wagner, invites all children and all their parents to come enjoy an “Old Fashioned Christmas in Rockford.”
Those who head to Rockford’s city park Saturday evening will find Santa Claus, a bonfire, horsedrawn hay rides (ride at your own risk) and plenty of Christmas goodies.
The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. and is free. Santa and Mrs. Claus ask only for the donation of canned food or a small gift to benefit the YWCA domestic violence shelter or the Rockford Food Bank. Sponsors are the Freeman YMCA program and the Rockford Lions Club.
Mrs. Claus is so busy baking cookies, she’s never gotten to take a hayride herself, but she says they last about 10 minutes.
“We usually have a couple hundred kids turn out,” Wagner says. “It’s just a time for everyone to come together.
When families are done visiting with Santa - played by Ron Roche - they can sip hot chocolate and eat Christmas cookies around the bonfire.
Christmas at Rockford will be in its eighth or ninth year; Wagner has lost count. She started the program as a celebration for children in the YMCA before- and after-school care program.
Now, though, it’s come one, come all.
The Rockford Food Bank operates primarily during the winter months. It helps about a dozen families or so, said volunteer Helen Grewes.
Christmas dinners go out to six or eight families. And about 35 Christmas goody baskets are made up, for the elderly or those who are alone. “So they know someone is thinking about them,” Grewes said. The food bank is located in the basement of the Rockford United Methodist Church.
The YWCA’s domestic violence shelter houses up to 27 women and children. Suggestions for presents include make-up, perfume or inspirational gifts. Canned food is useful at the shelter, too.
To reach Rockford, head south from the Valley on state Highway 27 approximately 16 miles. There’s a well-marked turn off the highway. To find the city park, take a right at the stop sign in the center of town.
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