Santa Claus visits children in Cape Girardeau, Jackson

Saturday, December 12, 2009 ~ Updated 9:22 PM
Santa is spotted outside the caboose of the St. Louis Iron Mountain Railroad Saturday in Jackson. (LAURA SIMON)

While the elves are busy making and wrapping toys in the workshop, Santa is traveling to shopping malls, parks, stores, schools, churches and even trains so he can spend time with children, who have thousands of wishes and requests for toys and special gifts for Christmas.

Catching up with Santa was hard to do since he was traveling to four places Saturday. First he started with a 9 a.m. breakfast at the 4-H Exhibition Hall at Arena Park in Cape Girardeau.

Sponsored by the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department and Parks and Recreation Foundation, the breakfast helped raise funds for the foundation.

Caroline, 6, was busy coloring a picture of Rudolph. She said she plans to ask Santa for the movie "Santa's Buddies." She had already sent a card to Santa and told him she loved him and his reindeer. Next to her was Nash, 9, who said he wants Star Wars Legos, Star Wars action figures and some video games. Owen, 3, said Santa is bringing him a Disney Mack truck.

Suddenly there came the roar of a fire engine as Santa arrived via a Cape Girardeau Fire Department firetruck with his firefighter elves. He jumped off the truck and came into the building amid applause and huge smiles. His bag of goodies was slung over his back as he quickly visited with the children at their tables.

Catrella Burns, right, takes her 4-month-old son Te'Quan Hunt to meet Santa for the the first time Saturday at West Park Mall. (LAURA SIMON)

Santa was bundled up for the cold weather outside, his cheeks rosy and his reading glasses perched on the end of his nose. Once he was on the stage where his sleigh was waiting, children eagerly lined up to sit on his lap and whisper what they wanted for Christmas.

After breakfast it was on to West Park Mall where Santa got to listen to more boys and girls as he sat in his special chair surrounded by decorated trees and giant chocolate drops.

Legs dangling from Santa's lap, Hunter, 8, told him he had been a good boy all year and really wanted some Bionicles and an Indiana Jones Lego set.

Next Santa made a quick trip to Jackson to board the "Santa Express" on the St. Louis Iron Mountain & Southern Railway. The train was buzzing as 100 boys, girls, parents and grandparents filled the wooden seats for the two-hour ride to Gordonville and back with Santa. A cheer went up as he entered the train, where he grabbed a quick lunch of hot chocolate and goodies with the youngsters, then read the story "The Polar Express" over the loudspeaker. Each child on the train got to sit with Santa and tell him what he or she wanted for Christmas. It was 8-year-old Parker's first time on the Santa Express and he was anxious to see Old St. Nick. "I'm excited!" he said.

After the train ride and story Santa caught a ride with his reindeer back to Cape Girardeau, heading downtown to the historic Glenn House, which was decorated for a Victorian Christmas. In the carriage house he was joined by Mrs. Claus, and together they shook visitors' hands and talked to several children who pulled him aside to whisper their special wishes for Christmas.

Santa had help from a Cape Girardeau elf named Mike Shain who began the afternoon explaining the origin of Santa. Then Shain read the Christmas classic "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the visitors.

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