By Charlie M Holmes
---- — Around 2 p.m. Sunday, the foyer of the Cooperstown Volunteer Fire Department was jammed with children and their parents.
Just outside, sunlight glistened off four of the department’s fire trucks as a tall man wearing fake red antlers stood next to them talking about the activities he had planned for the children that afternoon. His name is Eric Pierce. He’s captain of the emergency squad and also this year’s chairman of the Cooperstown Volunteer Fire Department’s Children’s Christmas Party.
“Bassett provided us a couple of shuttles this year, so we’re gonna do some caroling around the village. We have Santa in here. He’s going to be getting his picture taken with the kids on our old antique fire truck. We have a magician. We have our new fire truck parked out here in front, which we’re going to be giving some tours of. We’ve got games for all the kids to play and the sheriff’s department is doing their child ID station,” Pierce said.
The Children’s Christmas Party has been going on for more than 40 years. An eight-person committee starts meeting in September to plan the event and the members volunteer somewhere between 80 and 100 hours to pull it all together for the approximately 175 children that come from as far away as Ilion and Fort Plain to attend.
Inside, Aaron Van Buren stood back and watched as his 10-month-old daughter was placed on Santa’s lap to get her picture taken. Van Buren estimated that his family had been coming to the Children’s Christmas Party for six or seven years.
“I’ve been a Cherry Valley fireman and Cherry Valley and Cooperstown participate in a lot of stuff together,” Van Buren explained. “Every time they do things we come to their events and when we do events they come to our events. It works out good both ways.”
Across the fire station, Peter Chase was helping his sons, 2-year-old Kaleb and 6-year-old Brent, put together a bell made out of construction paper. The Chase family comes to the Children’s Christmas Party every year.
“The kids go to Cooperstown and it’s a way to get everybody together with their friends and family,” Chase said. “It’s just a good time had by all.”
Chase’s 9-year-old son Shane was directly behind him leaning over a table while his mother filled in his information on the sheriff’s department’s child ID form. Across the table Officers Virtell and Reckeweg entered Shane’s information into their computer and took his photo.
“It’s kept in a database, New York state database,” Reckeweg explained. “If the child’s ever missing you can just tell the officer they’re in the New York state safe child database. All the law enforcement agencies can get the information more quickly. It makes it a lot faster, especially when a parent is hysterical because their child’s missing.”
The Cooperstown Volunteer Fire Department’s Children’s Christmas Party is free to anyone who wants to attend each year. To support this and other programs the fire department runs mail a check to: The Cooperstown Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 1, Cooperstown, NY 13326.