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DEC 10 - DEC 17, 2015

Holly Jolly Trolly Skips City Market; Crying Kids Wait For No Show Santa

By Mike Hudson

DEC 10, 2015

Santa didn't make it to the City Market this year.

When City Administrator Donna Owens took time from her schedule back in 2008 to come up with the idea for the Holly Trolley Christmas event, she said, “It’s a chance for the community to express their holiday cheer. There’s a lot to cheer about. We’re so blessed.”

And the Holly Trolley became a Christmas tradition, as Owens and Mayor Paul Dyster accompanied Santa Claus around town in a rented bus, making scheduled stops and greeting eagerly waiting children.

Santa would ask the youngsters what they wanted for Christmas, dispense candy canes and pose for photos.

This year, Joanna Jo Romano called City Hall to ask that the Trolley stop at City Market. A city employee told her that the stop could be added but, a few days later, when the Trolley schedule was published in the Niagara Gazette, the City Market stop wasn’t listed.

Romano called City Hall again.

“This time I asked to speak to Donna Owens directly,” she said. “She said the stop could be added, so I went over to the Gazette. They published a notice about it the next day.”

Two restaurants in the market, the Maple and the 755 Lounge, co-sponsored the 6 o’clock event, springing for a tent and refreshments. Romano promoted the visit from Santa on Facebook, and the turnout was good.

“There were about 25 in the tent but it was bitter cold and a lot of people were waiting in their cars to keep warm,” she said. “The parking lot was full.”

The appointed time came and went and Santa, Dyster and Owens were no shows. At 6:30, Romano went looking for them, without success. By 7 o’clock, the crowd began to break up, and Romano posted on Facebook.

“This evening a group of families and children gathered in the cold awaiting for Santa to come on the Trolley at the City Market,” she posted. “We took no pleasure in telling these children Santa couldn't make it. Heart wrenching to watch these children cry. This was inexcusable and cruel. Shame on this administration.”

Romano was quickly set upon by Patrick Brown, husband of City Controller Maria Brown and an ardent Dyster supporter.

“At least this administration tried something like the holly trolly (sic),” Brown lectured. “I don't recall prior administrations doing anything like this.”

Besides that, he wrote, it was inappropriate to bring the issue up on Facebook at all.

“I guess you should take it to next council meeting… (T)alking about it on Facebook doesn't do much.”

Other commentators disagreed.

“I think the point is the city attempted to do something nice for the children for Christmas and they couldn't even follow through,” wrote Patricia Robinson. “Just another disappointment.”

Romano followed up with another call to City Hall and was told that a report of a suicidal man with a gun on 15th Street kept Dyster, Owens and Santa away.

“So there’s a dangerous situation happening and they leave a bunch of children there but are too afraid to show up themselves?” Romano asked. “We just wanted to give these kids a ray of hope in this city.”

Next year, she said, things will be different.

“We’re going to do our own and it will be great,” Romano promised. “Miss Bev's and Diane's kids – the Boys and Girls Club -- will rock it with dance and I'll get a choir to bring in the real celebration. Santa will be there with toys for all the kids. We can do this without the Trolley and the City Hall employees.”






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