WATERMAN – Waterman resident John Baine and his family have never missed the Holiday Lights Train at Waterman’s Lions Community Park, 435 S. Birch St., since they moved to town.
The family, whose 14-year-old son JT has Down syndrome, said the free train rides offered every holiday season near Christmas is something special in Waterman.
Owner Pete Robinson told Baine his son JT never has to pay to ride the train. The event, which offers free rides around Easter and Christmas, is run entirely on donations.
“We always throw in a little something,” Baine said. “Pete’s a great guy. If you’re cool with my son, you’re cool with me.”
Sunday was the last day Santa Claus was visiting the park. Families lined up for a chance to sit with Father Christmas and told him what they wanted for the holiday.
Plano resident Sylvia Johnson’s 6-year-old daughter even brought her wish list.
Johnson said she decided to take her daughter to the event because it was free.
“It’s wonderful, and to offer it for free, it’s even better,” Johnson said. “Even if the train broke down, so what? It’s not like we bought a ticket.”
The train stopped working for a few minutes at least twice during the event.
Co-owner Char Robinson said the train was using two engines to help carry the weight over hills.
The park had 42 trees set up with decorations and more than 250,000 lights. Riders saw lights, Santa’s workshop and mini-train sets everywhere they looked.
“They think they’re at the North Pole,” said DeKalb resident Sandra Nunez about her 5-year-old godson and his 6-year-old cousin.
Nunez brought the children to the park because she thought it would be a nice thing to do for the holidays. The children were bundled up in snowpants and jackets while waiting in line.
“It’s cold, but it was worth the weight,” Nunez said.
Monsanto donated free hot chocolate for visitors, Meteor Lodge 283 of Sandwich donated free popcorn and Ashland Propane donated propane tanks to heat the building where concessions were sold.
Robinson said people should come next weekend if they want to experience the joy of Christmas.
“We’re trying to make memories last a lifetime,” she said, “so that every child can get fun and enjoyment on Christmas.”