Santa, a Biplane, and Something To Be Excited About

Little kids like planes so I was pretty excited to hear that my barnstorming friend Dewey was helping with something special for kids in his community this Christmas. You see, he picked up Santa and gave him a lift to the airport in Springfield, Ohio on Sunday.

Santa and his elf spent that afternoon visiting with youngsters and learning their fondest Christmas wishes.

While Santa was tucked away with a line of kids in a warm airport terminal, Dewey was outside visiting with the kiddos and their parents. He fitted them all with aviator caps and goggles before lifting them up into the plane for photos.

Despite the cold, biting wind you only experience in western Ohio’s flat farmland (I’m from the hills where the wind can’t get up that much speed), groups of kids and adults came trooping outside for their turn with his 90 year old open air cockpit biplane.

I swear that many of them were just as excited to see the biplane as they were to meet Santa. The pilot seemed equally thrilled to give people the opportunity and to talk about the lost art of barnstorming.

He’s good with people and you can tell that there’s little he loves more than sharing his passion with others. It was fun to watch and I was happy to play a very small part that day.

A piece of me wishes I had something to be so excited about. I’m enthusiastic about lots of things and interested in almost any topic but there’s never been one thing that captured my enthusiasm so dramatically. Although, if I did something so cool as barnstorming in a fabulous old biplane, I might be singing a different tune.

Here’s a thought for today. If you have kiddos and you see a spark in them, you see that they’re excited about something, try nurturing that spark. Encourage them to learn and grow with that thing they love so much. It could turn into a career or maybe just a lifelong hobby. Either way, I’m guessing they’ll be happier than the rest of us who just bounce around from interest to interest.

And if Santa is coming to an airport near you, friends, go see him. There’s nothing cooler than seeing Santa climb out of an airplane.

Lebanon’s Horse Drawn Carriage Parade And Festival

Lebanon, Ohio has the neatest Christmas celebration.

On the first Saturday of each December, they host an outdoor festival complete with live Christmas music, vendors and specials at some downtown businesses.

The highlight of the event is a pair of very special parades- a daytime parade and a candlelit night parade that both feature horses. There are no bands, floats or fire trucks – just horses pulling an assortment of wagons, sleighs, carts, Conestoga wagons and stage coaches. They have cute little ponies, majestic Clydesdales and everything in between.

It’s a sight to behold and I have wanted to go for sixteen years. Unfortunately a work commitment at a holiday event in my own hometown always prevented my participation – until this year, that is!

I spent Saturday roaming around town, browsing the shops and just soaking it all in. I spoke with a few locals including one woman who told me about the year Martha Stewart came to town and featured the parade on her show. She said it was always a great event but it really took off after receiving Martha’s unofficial seal of approval.

A lot of the participants go all out with decorating their wagons and dressing up the horses (and themselves) while playing recorded music. The sound of jingle bells could be heard all around too.

It’s just a fun, festive way to embrace the lighter side of the holiday season. Plus it’s free!

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Christmas at nearby Clifton Mill. If you wanted to, you could squeeze both events into a day or maybe make it a weekend! Meanwhile, here are some parade photos!

If you go, the town has a ton of free parking but a high volume of festival goers can make parking a challenge. Some local organizations were selling parking for $10 so remember to take cash in case you need parking money. When I got there at 11 (the event started at 10:30 and the first parade wasn’t till 1), parking was already becoming an issue.

Also, lots of people put out their chairs early for the parade. You may want to do this to reserve yourself a front row seat. I opted to stand and managed to find a good spot but the parade was almost an hour long so a chair would have been nice.

This is a fun, festive environment where you see lots of people in their ugly Christmas sweaters, elf shoes and Santa hats so feel free to embrace your inner child and wear something Christmasy. Over the top will fit right in here!

Finally, remember that this is a busy, crowded event during peak hours. It’s also Christmas so chill, be kind to others and remember to just enjoy the hustle and bustle of the day. Seeing all those horses clop down the street will make it all worthwhile!

Check back tomorrow and we’ll go to Clifton Mill!

Mickey and Minnie

I spent part of Saturday wandering around the Christmas festivities in Lebanon, Ohio. I’ll tell you about their horse parade soon but thought you’d enjoy this picture today!

It was taken outside a local barbershop that was once a filling station called A Man’s Place.

At Home with the Frick Family

Imagine being so wealthy that your child’s playhouse is a full size home with a bowling alley addition.

When you buy a Rolls Royce, you have your monogram added to the door. You buy one, not just for yourself, but for your wife and daughter at the same time.

Your art collection is museum worthy and your homes are decadently furnished with the most expensive decor of the day.

As a contemporary of industrialists like Andrew Carnegie, you dabble in manufacturing and financing and build an empire the envy of businessmen everywhere.

This is the story of Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick. His family’s story is fascinating and it’s told every day thanks to the forethought, planning and generosity of his daughter Helen who saw to it that the family’s Pittsburgh home and art collection would be accessible to all.

Today, it’s simply known as The Frick. You can walk the grounds, enjoy the hot house flowers, marvel over their car collection and be inspired by their art collection for free. For just a few dollars you can tour the family home as well as whatever special exhibition they have at the time.

When I was there, it was decorated for the holidays and the docent related stories of how the family celebrated Christmas as well as stories of their everyday life.

They also had the traveling Katherine Hepburn exhibition for which there is an additional fee.

I benefited from the generosity of my friend Nichola who purchased a membership for her family, gaining me free access to everything.

If I lived in a city like Pittsburgh, I would have memberships to the Frick and many of the museums I love. Alas, I live in the sticks where museums are rare.

If you go, allow plenty of time to enjoy everything. House tours sell out pretty quickly so it’s best to arrive early to schedule your tour. There’s plenty to do including a cafe and gift shop. However, we had lunch in nearby Shadyside which I wrote about earlier this week. Check it out!

I’ll soon tell you more about the Katherine Hepburn exhibit as well as my friend’s happy place – the Phipps. Come back tomorrow for more!

Santas From Around the World

If Light Up Night is an indicator, Pittsburgh knows how to throw a party. The atmosphere Friday night was festive and fun, providing ample opportunity to eat, drink and be merry.

There was live music and a fantastic artist who used a chainsaw to create ice sculptures. We shopped a little, heard a fun barbershop quartet, took a spin through Fort Pitt and saw a great laser light show. Not to mention Santa, gingerbread houses, multiple tree lightings, a European Christmas marketplace and fireworks throughout the.evening.

It doesn’t hurt that Zambelli Fireworks is a Pittsburgh company that consistently provides the city with the best fireworks displays around. Friday night was no exception.

But my favorite attraction of the evening was an exhibit called Spirits of Giving From Around the World. It features life sized, lifelike Santas and paintings that depict them in action.

This is a very American thing for me to say but I had never considered how drastically different Santa might be in other countries.

Here’s their American Santa.

But then, this one is from China. Christmas Old Man fills children’s stockings with gifts from a wicker basket he carries. One little girl in line ahead of us was concerned that his basket wasn’t very big. I loved Ireland’s St Stephen. He looks the embodiment of life and fertility. And I was amused by the French Pere Noel who stashes gifts in wooden shoes left out by good children while his mean spirited companion leaves only switches for bad boys and girls. Norway’s Julesven is stunning and reminds me of Old Man Winter personified.

Look at how intricate the details are on his beard.

Here are a few more pictures. Note that Haiti is represented by a woman!

They were just stunning and frankly, the experience was eye opening, leaving me a little ashamed that I had never realized this giving soul would look different in every country.

And you know something? I loved it. I loved learning through this display. And I loved how art and enlightenment were brought to the young and old, disguised as little more than a neat Christmas display.

This exhibit will be available to the public through January 1, 2020. Click here for hours and location.

The Secrets It Holds

Do you ever look at an old house and wonder what stories it would tell if it could talk? What secrets are held within these walls?

Who lived here? Were they happy? Where did they go when they left this place? The sorrows and joys, the daily chores and the celebrations, the laughter and tears must still reverberate through the walls and windows – even if we can’t hear or see them.

The possibilities are endless and I love to imagine different people and what their lives must have been like.