By Amy Larson, Photography Courtesy of the City of Eagle
It’s always wonderful to see people having fun, getting out of their houses, and socializing, especially during the holiday season. Eagle Country Christmas is one of those great opportunities, having become a yearly tradition for family and friends.
Crisp December air surrounds Heritage Park as rosy-cheeked choirs in winter hats cast voices outward, sharing songs of the season. Siblings snuggle into a horse-drawn sleigh with parents as they ride past toasty bonfires surrounded by conversing neighbors. Holiday market shoppers wrap mitten-covered hands around cups of hot chocolate, as hopeful children compose thoughtful letters to Santa, who will soon arrive.
“I grew up in Florida,” says Caitlin Straubinger, Eagle Parks and Rec’s Recreation Specialist, “this was the Christmas I always saw in books and movies.”
The Norman Rockwell-esque scene took time and planning. Organized by the Eagle Chamber of Commerce, last year the efforts of both the Eagle Chamber and Eagle Parks and Rec Department were combined.
Parks and Rec’s Community Enhancement Coordinator Jenessa Hansen, says, “The entertainment is provided by local choirs from Northstar Charter, Eagle Middle School, and Rolling Hills Charter. Jazz bands and dance groups take the stage, too. You should see the looks on families’ faces when they watch their kids. It’s a really great sense of community.”
She adds, “We had the horse-drawn sleigh for the first time last year. It was super sweet to see the families all bundled up, with the lighted tree in the background. It truly is something out of a picture book.”
Local congregation River Christian Church provides free hot chocolate and welcoming fire pits. Before the tree lighting, the mayor takes a few moments to speak to those in attendance, offering words of encouragement regarding the Christmas season and upcoming New Year.
“We also have Santa pay a little visit,” she says, “We set up a throne for him.”
When asked what happens to all of the letters that Eagle area children have written to Santa, Hansen feigns mild offense. “They’re sent to the North Pole, of course!” she firmly replies.
The children’s tent, complete with Santa’s throne, has the entry fee of a can of food, which is donated to the Eagle Food Bank. Straubinger, well-experienced with children’s programs, is coordinator of the activity tent and sleigh.
“I love seeing the children get excited,” she says, “They’re excited about Santa, the sleigh ride, the horses, cozying up with Mom and Dad, and they’re excited to write letters to Santa, about cookie decorating, and about the start of the holiday season.”
Hansen says, “Donating food encourages the giving spirit. I think people forget about the Eagle Food Bank sometimes. They’ve been helping others for quite a while, and the community can give a lot back in such a simple way. It’s a great way to get into the holiday spirit.”
Passionate about creating opportunities for the community to come together, Hansen loves being involved with providing space and time for people to join and celebrate.
“It’s a good feeling,” Hansen says reflectively, “helping to set up something like that.”
Where: Heritage Park 185 E. State St. Eagle, ID 83616
When: Dec. 12th 1PM-6PM
Schedule of events:
Christmas Market 1PM-6PM
Music 1PM-6PM (Van Paepeghem Quartet will be singing around the Christmas tree lighting)
Christmas Tree Lighting 5:30PM
Kids Activity Tent 1PM-5PM
Carriage Ride: 1PM-6PM