“The turnout has been very good, even though we didn’t market or promote it very heavily,” he explained. “Since this is our first year, we wanted to make sure we didn’t leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. We wanted to have just a few things that went really well, not a whole lot of different things that might not have been consistently as good. We did a lot of word of mouth advertising, and we used Facebook. All of the feedback we have gotten so far has been very positive.”
Bad weather at the beginning of the week pushed some of the events back, and may have hurt turnout. The Talladega Christmas parade was moved up a day, which interfered with a screening of the live action version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” A screening of “The Polar Express” drew about 75 people on Thursday night and might have drawn even more if the Lincoln Christmas Parade hadn’t been the same night.
“We wanted people to walk away saying ‘there might not have been a lot, but they really nailed what they did,” Daves said.
The uncontested highlight of the week was Santa’s Workshop, which was set up in the vacant building between the Ritz Theater and LMo and Company on the square.
“Keela Brown and Shannon Moore put a lot of time into decorating, and we all worked to get the building ready,” Daves said. But building aside, the key was to find just the right Santa. Which they did, just in the nick of time (pun semi-intentional).
“We wanted a really awesome Santa, that was our key selling point,” Daves said. “I called around to other chambers, but couldn’t find just the right one until I got an email from the Calhoun County Chamber directing me to a Facebook page.”
The page had been set up by Norman Williamson of Heflin, a man with many, many years of experience working as one of Santa’s helpers, particularly in the Montgomery area. “He came up and met with us, and he not only looked great, but he was just tremendous with the kids. He just has a way with them, and he always makes sure to stay after closing to make sure that every kid gets to talk to him,” Daves said. “It was a perfect for us both.”
“I love Talladega,” he said. “I’ve met lots of nice people here, made lots of friends already,” he said, in between visits with children.
Since his retirement from the mall, this Santa has worked at house parties and churches wherever he was asked. “I love seeing the sparkle in the children’s eyes when they see me,” he said. “That’s really what its all about for me, just making the children happy.”
Also present at the workshop is Annie Carol Williamson, also known as Mrs. Claus. The couple has been together for coming up on 53 years now, and, not surprisingly, tied the knot on Christmas Eve, 1960.
“We like to be able to say happy anniversary, merry Christmas and happy new year all at once,” she said.
Daves said the Williamsons have already been booked for next year, and the planning for Christmas 2014 is set to begin as soon as Christmas 2013 is wrapped up.
“With all the positive response we’ve gotten this year, next year should be a blowout,” Daves said. “We may have Santa stay with us a little longer, and we’re probably going to be looking at getting businesses to sponsor different nights. We just want to keep building on the foundation we set up this year.”