Traditional visit from Santa Claus continues next weekend

Published 11:20 pm Friday, December 9, 2016

Santa may not be flying in on his sleigh, but seeing him riding atop a fire engine can be just as exciting — just ask the children who live in the Openwood subdivision.

Santa has been making visits through the neighborhood for quite some time, and this year will mark the 40th anniversary of Santa’s visit to Openwood, which is sponsored by the Openwood Garden Club.

“Originally, the members held an Open House at the Openwood Country Club and invited residents to come for cookies, punch and a visit with Santa,” club member Miriam Jabour said.

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A few years later, the club decided it was time the jolly old elf became mobile in an effort to make sure as many children as possible got a visit with him, hence during the late 1970s the garden club president became St. Nick’s chauffeur — driving him through the subdivision on a golf cart to visit with all the children.

“And there was always candy for all and each child had an opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap,” Jabour said.

Santa’s ride was upgraded in 1990.

“The garden club was working on a project with the Culkin Volunteer Fire Department to gather information to help them in case of a fire in the subdivision, and they asked if they could help with this Christmas event,” Jabour.

And ever since, she said, the fire department along with a deputy from the Warren County Sheriffs Department have escorted Santa around the subdivision making scheduled stops along the way.

Santa’s new ride was especially exciting one year when the weather decided not to cooperate with the event.

“It rained and stormed that day and the fire department asked if we still wanted to do it,” Sylvia Gurtowski said.

Gurtowski, also an Openwood Garden Club member, is serving as the committee chairman for this year’s Santa’s visit to Openwood.

“Santa never misses Christmas,” Gurtowski said, “so we decided to still do it.”

Ironically, the inclement weather only added to Santa’s visit with the children, she said.

Not only did the children get to visit with Santa, they got to crawl up in his lap while he was sitting in the big red fire Truck.

Gurtowksi said the Openwood Garden Club is indebted to the Culkin Volunteer Fire Department and the Sheriff’s office.

“We could not do this without them,” she said.

Santa’s visit to Openwood is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Dec. 18 at the corner of Newitt Vick Drive.

He will then make five stops, which will include one at Newitt Vick and Jil Marie Circle, Newitt Vick and Fairways Drive, Newitt Vick and Club House Circle and Fairways Drive and Pebble Beach.

Santa’s final stop will be at the Landings Apartments by the office and mailboxes, Gurtowski said, and his estimated time of arrival is 3 p.m.

“We never know how many children will be at each of the stops and Santa never rushes with any of the kids,” she said.

 In honor of this year’s 40th anniversary, Gutowski said Santa would also be bringing a little something extra for the children.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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