In Sykesville, Santa on track for another Pullman visit

November 29, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

When Santa Claus comes to Sykesville this weekend, he'll eschew a plastic mansion surrounded by fake snow. He'll receive visitors in an authentic railroad car.

Lionel and HO model trains will whir softly around him. The occasional whistle from a tiny engine won't disrupt his train of thought -- but might distract children from their wish lists.

"Many of the kids like the trains better than Santa," said Ralph Hancock, who'll repeat last year's performance in the 1920s-era Pullman as Santa.

Santa is coming to town as the guest of the Sykesville Business Association, which is sponsoring the second annual holiday open house from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and throughout the weekend.

Live white pine roping decorated with red velvet bows lines Main Street. Each merchant has placed a large balsam wreath at the door.

"Very few towns do as much with fresh greens as we do," said Kim Miller, owner of Main Street Dry Goods. "We decorate every building. Once, we decorated a vacant one."

Main Street has no vacancies now. Every building has a either a retail or service tenant.

"The main thrust is to get people downtown to show them Main Street is a fun place to shop," said Mark Rychwalski, co-owner of Craftsman Art Co. and organizer of the open house. "We hope it gets them into the holiday spirit."

Carolers from St. Paul's United Methodist Church will sing as the town lights its tree at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Town House and officially opens the season.

Merchants, who have extended their hours to 9 p.m. for the community party, are saying "thank-you" for the year's patronage with coupons, discounts and refreshments.

"This is really a family thing," Mr. Rychwalski said.

"This is not like a typical mall scene. We are going for the old-time, where store fronts are decorated for the holidays."

Ms. Miller, Mr. Rychwalski's wife, said the open house provides a holiday mood and "allows us to show off a cohesive shopping district."

"People can come and browse and maybe find the places they had no idea were here," Ms. Miller said.

The Sykesville and Patapsco Railway -- a model railroaders club -- will be on track, too.

"That is a grand name, but we will fit into it," said Mark Bennett, president of the model railroaders club. "We love trains, and Sykesville has a railroad history. We just go together, and Christmas is a great time to bring people downtown."

For the open house, the club has set up two displays in the Pullman car, which volunteers have been restoring for about a year. By spring, its exterior blue, gold and gray painting will be complete to reflect Chessie system tradition.

"The Pullman may be the biggest 'model' ever," said Mr. Bennett, whose model railroad club is restoring the car.

"We are hoping it promotes interest in model trains and the railroad in general. It should be a natural draw that gets people to stay and see the other sights in town."

If weather permits, the club also hopes to run one of its larger models outside.

Even if the weather outside is frightful, Main Street stores will open their doors.

"It's got to be chilly outside to make you feel Christmas-y," Ms. Miller said.

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