Over the past several years, magic has happened downtown during the Downtown Alliance’s annual Carriage Rides With Santa.
“Downtown is beautiful this time of the year,” said Dr. Hank Parfitt, of the alliance. “All the lights are in the trees and a lot of the stores are decorated. It’s kind of magical.”
To add to that magic is the sound of horses hooves clipping down the streets of downtown. Pullin a vis-a-vis or “Cinderella-style” carriage, the horses make the rounds through downtown with none other than good old St. Nick at the reigns.
“You should see the expression on the kids’ faces,” said Parfitt. “It is just wonderful. It’s so much fun not only for the families who are taking the carriage rides, but also for the volunteers who are working the event.”
“Santa will be driving the horse-drawn carriage,” continued Parfitt. “So that really adds to the excitement. He leaves the reindeer back at the North Pole, but he trains with the horses for Christmas Eve. It gives the kids a sense of what it’s like to be in the sleigh on Christmas Eve.”
The event has been ongoing each Christmas season for the past five or six years. It started in conjunction with the first Dickens’ Christmas. Parfitt said the two events lend themselves to each other. “It’s a really unique experience,” he said. “There’s nothing else like this going on in the surrounding communities.”
He noted that the the ride is 10-minutes in length and encompasses the core of downtown. He said the carriage holds four to eight people, so you can either bring a group or make new friends as you make your round downtown.
“It’s usually cold, so everybody bundles up close. There’s a lot of laughter,” he said.
In addition to the laughter, there’s also more magic. Over the past several years, a number of young men have used the carriage ride as an opportunity to propose to their girlfriends.
“The first engagement occurred at the very first Dickens’ Holiday,” recalled Parfitt. “Last year and the year before, we had at least two engagements.”
If you have something like that in mind, you can rent the carriage for a solo ride for just $30, otherwise, the cost is $5 per person.
Rides are scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 12 and Sunday, Dec. 13 and again on Saturday, Dec. 19 and Sunday, Dec. 20 from 2-9 p.m. To schedule a ride, go to 222 Hay Street, where you can schedule a ride for later in the day or wait for your ride.
“Most people come early and schedule their rides for later in the afternoon and then they spend some time downtown shopping, having dinner or drinking hot chocolate or coffee,” said Parfitt.
For more information, call the Downtown Alliance at 222-3382.