Preparing for the holidays

Members of WABA’s Santa by the River committee have been planning for the Christmas season for months. Tom Hetherington, seated, will help by portraying Santa. Standing, from left, are committee members Donna Bridge and Jeannette Calhoun.

WATSONTOWN — Tom Hetherington longs for the days when the holidays were less commercialized, but rather filled with kind greetings and gifts from the heart.

“Christmas is such a special time of year,” he said. “Over the past several decades, Christmas has become commercialized.

“Christmas was special when you walked down the street, people said ‘Merry Christmas’ and smiled,” Hetherington continued.

In society in general, he believes those feelings have changed.

“Christmas is all about Black Friday and gift cards, not gifts,” he said.

As part of his efforts to re-create the magic of the holiday season, Hetherington last year started helping with Watsontown’s Chrismas efforts.

Since Santa Claus has a busy schedule, he recruits volunteers to assist with those efforts, with some even taking on the persona of the jolly old elf.

Hetherington is one of those individuals. Last year, he volunteered by growing a beard and putting on a Santa suit for the first time, greeting children in the community.

“It was really so amazing,” he said. “My guarantee to all the children was ‘on Christmas morning, you will find a gift that will make you happy.’”

He will be helping Santa again this year. Hetherington is also volunteering to help organize the Watsontown Area Business Association’s Santa by the River schedule of activities.

The activities begin at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, with the community’s tree lighting ceremony and Santa arrival, at the Watsontown municipal parking lot near the Nurse Helen Fairchild Memorial Bridge.

Preparations for the big night have been ongoing for months.

“Our goal is to fill Watsontown with Christmas,” Jeannette Calhoun, Santa by the River chair, said.

“In Watsontown, we have a wonderful rural influence that allows us to be a community,” Hetherington said. “This is the opportunity for Watsontown to shine and glow.”

Calhoun credited Hetherington with refurbishing the community’s Santa house. He was assisted by Jarod Berger.

“I reached out to Fick’s Hardware and they donated some paint,” Hetherington said. “We primed (the house), painted everything. We freshened everything up.”

While working on the home, Hetherington discovered holiday artwork inside which had been created by Tim Haluck, a borough employee.

The artwork was given back to Haluck, who touched it up. The revised work will be on display at the Santa house.

In addition to the tree lighting and Santa’s arrival on Dec. 6, Calhoun said music will be provided by Warrior Run High School band and choral members.

From 6 to 8 that evening, the Watsontown Historical Association will hold an open house at its headquarters at Main Street and Brimmer Avenue.

Kingdom Kidz will hold a special program, titled “Countdown to Christmas,” at its puppet home, 11 E. Third St.

A canned food drive, to benefit the Warrior Run Neighbors Helping Neighbors program, will be ongoing throughout December. Donations can be dropped off at the puppet home.

Additional activities will also take place throughout the month. Santa will be in his home from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. Music will be provided by a Lutheran church bell choir.

As Santa is at his house from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, a choral group from Montgomery will perform.

Santa will be back at the house from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20.

At those times, Haluck will read from a version of the book “Twas The Night Before Christmas” which he created.

Santa will also be in his house from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.

Last season, Hetherington estimated 400 children visited with Santa Claus in Watsontown.

Staff writer Kevin Mertz can be reached at 570-742-9671 or email

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