Christmas comes early every year for Chris Cantwell.
For the past 15 years, the Woodstock Rotary Club member has had the pleasure of promising to grant holiday wishes to the young visitors to his tiny, seasonal house on the Square.
“It’s the best thing I do all year,” he said.
Taking his role to heart, Cantwell has grown his own naturally white beard. On the weekend, Cantwell’s wife – who he calls the young Mrs. Claus – joins him in the hut. Together they are Chris (Kringle) and Sandy (Claus).
Cantwell says the experience his young visitors get when they visit is a little different than a visit to see the big elf at the mall. The hut in the Square is quiet and private and offers an opportunity for children and parents to share some special time together.
“We try to make the time together special with the family,” Cantwell said.
He’s developed some tricks of the trade to help shy children who are hesitant to approach the red-suited stranger. He leans in and whispers to the children that he has a secret he wants to share with them as an invitation to approach. His success rate is good and many children get a good first experience, coming back for years to come.
Many families make this visit an annual event, coming back year after year. As a result, Cantwell has had the opportunity to witness many of his young visitors grow up.
In addition to the joy he brings – and receives – from the children each year, Cantwell said he’s drawn to the charm of the community.
He recalled, “Twenty-five years ago, stepping onto the Woodstock Square was magic.”
In that spirit, he continues to create holiday magic in the town that captured his heart so many years ago.
Reflecting on his experience as a representative from the North Pole in the Park in the Square, Cantwell said with a twinkle in his eye, “We’ve had some magical things happen here.”