Youngsters and their families will start arriving at the downtown Pinedorado grounds about 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 5, for Cambria’s annual Christmas party for kids. But eager elves from the sponsoring Lions Club will have arrived much, much earlier than that.
An event like that takes some elaborate setup, after all. (The grounds are adjacent to the Veterans Memorial Building, 1000 Main St.).
The club has hosted the party for years, with help from the American Legion Post No. 432 and the Cambria Community Council. Longtime Lions volunteer Bud Goff said he doesn’t recall exactly when the party was launched, but he said “it’s been going as long as I can remember,” and he moved to town in 1993.
The December party is equally beloved by the youngsters, their families and the people who provide it. It is, Goff said, “the one affair that everybody looks forward to being part of … it’s the community’s party.”
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It’s a sentiment echoed by Walt Thomason, chairman and elf leader for the event. When asked to name the party’s standout volunteers, he replied, “Every Lion that’s ever been participates in that one. They all volunteer. As soon as the sign-up sheet goes out, it fills up.”
Goff said the holiday event isn’t the elaborately planned, monthslong effort that the club’s Pinedorado festivity is (over Labor Day weekend). The Christmas-party prep is much more casual. “Somebody shows up and says ‘I’ll do face painting,’ and so we have face painting that year.”
Some party offerings are guaranteed, weather permitting: Santa Claus (usually accompanied by Mrs. Claus) arrives about 11:30 a.m. via fire engine; games and prizes; food (burgers, hot dogs, ice cream and more, probably including popcorn and hot chocolate); a bounce house; and rides on the child-sized train. All are free for every youngster who shows up, whether from Cambria or not.
Goff’s planning to feed about 200 kids this year.
“Games, prizes, food. It’s what a Christmas party should be,” Goff said, “a fun affair. Free. Anyone is welcome. We just hope they get as much out of being there as we get out of doing it for them.”