It’s amazing what a great team of volunteers can achieve and after working on Santa’s Grotto from the end of October right up until the first scheduled Santa Boat Trip the grotto was finally completed – featuring new lights both inside and outside the building, a new “snowy” façade for the display area, new red ‘sparkly’ carpet, a festive display in the weighbridge window (courtesy of Della and Kate) and a host of extras we were ready to commence the busy Christmas schedule of around 40 trips over the 2 weekends leading up to Christmas, a Friday and a session for local schools.
It is a great testimony to the volunteers that Santa’s grotto was modified and improved from previous years despite seasonal colds hitting quite a few of us and Malcolm, a key member of the team, in severe pain from a trapped nerve which limited his physical capability, not that he didn’t try hard despite the pain he endured – well done to him for his commitment to the cause. Ann Pollard had taken responsibility for capably organising people to undertake the various duties required to run the Santa Trips – manning the wharf, steering the Blackcountry Man as well as face-painting, playing the elf and of course Santa was always in demand and under pressure. Volunteers also operated the kitchen, serving welcome hot drinks and seasonal delicacies (weren’t the mince pies great !).The office of course had also been busy with ticket sales coming in thick and fast as Christmas approached and Facebook / Website “adverts” galvanizing interest in this local Santa experience right up until the last day as parents desperately tried to get a place – “book early” is a good idea for the future !
Most of the Trip Boats were in fact fully booked and it was a joy to hear the excited children shouting “we want Santa” as they returned back to the Bonded Warehouse, urged on by John Ganner through his louder than usual P.A. system – and then Santa arrived on his platform at the head of the canal to great delight and cheers by the little ones (and many parents / grand-parents!). So it was almost time to disembark the boat and enter the brightly lit and animated grotto area where patience was a virtue for many as children waited excitedly and with great anticipation for their turn to see Santa whilst being amused by face-painting, family photograph opportunities and looking in wonder at the display area where Thomas the Tank engine and his locomotive friends must have covered many a mile during the course of the annual event.
Santa tells us he enjoyed meeting all of the children and their parents and was able to give out an early Christmas present to those who had been good which was well received by the children who went off happily with their cuddly toy or magic set whilst parents headed for the café for their hot drink and mince pie or stollen.
We hope that everyone who came along enjoyed their visit – the volunteers work so hard to ensure that everyone has a good time and of course the income raised is vital to enabling the Bonded Warehouse to continue to operate for the benefit of the community. We received some wonderful Facebook reviews, recommendations and many “Likes” from some of our visitors but we were particularly pleased with the following well thought out comment from Teresa Hodgetts to whom we as volunteers are understandably most grateful:
“What a lovely Santa trip today – I have two children who have grown up and have visited Santa in many places but not here, what a wonderful experience at an exceptional price. The wait for Santa was in an area lit up with so much to look at. Santa himself was so welcoming and patient with our little one. She has never got close to the big man and usually ends in tears and screams but not today – a testament to Santa. Just goes to show the not so well known places with volunteers can really achieve the ultimate package – Thank you to you all.”
The Photo gallery below provides a pictorial record of the 2018 Santa Boat Trip programme – if anyone has any personal photographs that they would like to share we’d be grateful to receive these via the Bonded Warehouse email address and would happily add them to the Gallery.
Amazingly the volunteer “Tuesday Club” will commence deconstructing and storing Santa’s grotto and all of the decorations on 8th January whilst Santa has a well earned rest !
Finally on behalf of David Caunt, Chairman of Stourbridge Navigation Trust, we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who bought tickets for our Santa Trips and hope that you all felt it a good, value for money and memorable experience – we’d love to see you again next year ! In the meantime we’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year.