Santa Claus arrived in Milford on Saturday, November 28, delivered to the little red Santa House on the Mispillion Riverwalk in downtown Milford on a Carlisle Fire Company engine. For the past 16 years, Minor and Cookie Hardin have been performing the Santa and Mrs. Claus duties for Downtown Milford, Inc. (DMI), the organization that sponsors the Santa House each holiday season.
“These two people are devoted to the kids and give of themselves each year with their time and expense,” said Al Lauckner, a Milford resident who felt that the couple deserved recognition for their service to the children of Milford. “They drive down from Hartly each day of the holiday season in order to give children in the town the opportunity to tell Santa what they want for Christmas.”
Their dedication to providing the best Santa and Mrs. Claus experience to the children is evident during the hours the house is open. From half an hour before they open until the minute they close the doors, there are lines of children and their parents waiting to visit with the couple.
“This is the only place I will bring my kids to see Santa,” one mother said as she exited the home on Sunday, December 13. “They are, by far, the best Santa couple I have ever seen.” Bev French, who manages the Santa House for DMI said that the couple is extremely dedicated to making the Santa visit a true experience for every child, no matter what age they are.
“I started doing this for family on Christmas Eve,” Mr. Hardin explained. “It just kind of grew from there. I’ve been doing it for 30 to 35 years and I still go out on Christmas Eve to bring Santa to as many children as I can.” Mrs. Harden said that they began working with the Milford Santa House after Mr. Hardin portrayed Santa at People’s Place, where she was employed, for their Choral Breakfast. After the event, DMI approached him about being Santa in the Santa House and he accepted. When Mrs. Harden retired, she began portraying Mrs. Santa at the house. by his side.
Mr. Hardin said that the look on the faces of children when they enter the house is wonderful. He said he can see how magical a visit with Santa is on their faces and those looks are what keeps him doing what he does each year.
“I have to admit that you have to be careful,” Mr. Hardin said. “I can’t promise them anything because we don’t know what position their parents are in. I’ve been asked for purple ponies, hamsters, guinea pigs. I can’t say for sure those will be under the tree because I have no idea what their parents have told them.” Mr. Hardin said it is especially difficult when small children ask for practical things like clothes or tell him they can’t come to their house because they don’t have one. He said that those types of visits are always difficult for him.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Harden say that Milford is a great community, that those who they have come into contact with while performing as Santa and Mrs. Claus have been phenomenal. In true fashion, they downplayed their role during the holidays, instead commending the volunteers at DMI who make the Santa House a reality each year.
“We will meet again in January to begin preparing for the 2016 season,” Mr. Hardin said. “We are just a very small part, the face really, of what hundreds of volunteers do behind the scenes. Some of them have been doing this even longer than we have.” Mrs. Hardin pointed out that the Santa House was built with donations, grants and free labor from volunteers who gave freely of their time to make it become a reality.
“We have a lot of fun here in Milford,” Mr. Hardin said, with a Santa twinkle in his eye.