Santa comes early to Andes this season

By Matthew J. Perry
Andes residents kicked into the holiday season Saturday with a town-wide effort that celebrated the past, the present, and of course, a certain gent from the North Pole.
In what is hoped will become a yearly extravaganza, local merchants teamed with the Andes Society for History and Culture to create an attraction that celebrated both the season and the town.
Moving from brisk traffic through the town’s shops and galleries to a tree-lighting ceremony, and finally to open holiday gatherings at two locations on Main Street, visitors were treated to an expression of small-town Christmas cheer and an opportunity to make a dent in their shopping lists.
Santa Claus touched down at the Andes Hotel from noon to 3 p.m. and received some 20 children and their gift requests (he did not reveal how many of them were naughty or nice).
Local photographer Joe Damone was on hand to record each session, and he offered framed photographs to parents for $5. “He had his computer with him and did retouching right there,” says hotel owner Sally O’Neill. “The pictures all turned out great.”
The town’s Christmas tree came to life at 4:30 p.m. in Bohlman Park. From there, visitors were guided to the Hunting Tavern, where members of the Andes Society offered complimentary soup and bread as fortification against the chilly temperatures.
Simultaneously, Zoe Randall, proprietor of Chace-Randall Gallery at 49 Main Street, hosted an open house featuring work of regularly exhibited artists, which kept festivities alive until 7 p.m.
“It’s a yearly event for me, more of a party than an artists’ reception,” says Randall. “And it’s a great time of year to make it a party for everyone.” She guessed that 60 people came through the gallery for the art and refreshment. “I didn’t get it catered; I made everything myself,” she said.
The day’s events were coordinated by members of the Andes ad group, which has long sought opportunities to highlight the town as a singular experience that attracts those seeking regional history, contemporary art, shopping or dining.
In light of that goal, Andes’ Christmas was a success: more than 100 people were reported to have visited the Hunting Tavern during the day, and shops and restaurants did brisk business.
“This is just a beginning, we hope,” says O’Neill, who helped coordinate the efforts. “We’re hoping to do this next year, every year, and to keep building on it.”
One more event is planned before the holiday arrives.
The Andes Holiday Stroll is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 20. Town merchants will stay open until 8 p.m. that evening to provide a last-minute shopping opportunity.