Sunday, December 9, 2007

Hayride with Santa

Here’s how the description for this event appeared in the special holiday listing in the Weekender section of the Free Lance-Star: “Hay Ride, Inn at Kelly’s Ford. Join Santa for a winter hay ride and sing your favorite carols. Warm up with cider and cookies. Noon-2 p.m., free. Runs every Saturday through Dec. 29.” Of course, I couldn’t resist the prospect of finally getting in the hayride I was longing for in October. And I admit I had a pretty clear picture in my head of what this was going to be like. I pictured an innkeeper serving homemade cookies and cider while a piano accompanied us as we sang carols around the fireplace of the historic inn. Then we’d head out to the vintage hay wagon for a ride around the grounds, accompanied by a Thomas Nast-style St. Nicholas. It would have a very old-timey, Victorian feel. Not quite. The place is more horse farm than anything else. The inn is dwarfed by the huge equestrian center on the grounds, and the place is geared to horse boarding, horseback riding and horse shows. So our outing began in the tack room, where we were served cheap store-bought cookies and hot cider while we waited for our turn on the wagon. Now, it would be an understatement for me to describe myself as “not a horse person.” Don’t want to ride one, don’t want to pet one, don’t want to smell one. So our time in the rather smelly, unattractive tack room wasn’t the highlight of my day. But before long, the wagon showed up, and we were off on our hayride.

Santa joined us, looking like he was about 18 years old, and he brought along his portable CD player to provide the “carols,” a CD which sounded like something called “A Nashville Christmas.” But you know what? I consider myself a pretty flexible person. I put aside my dashed dreams of a Victorian hayride, and went with what I got: a funny Santa who worked the “crowd” (me, my husband, and a few teenage girls) like a pro, keeping up such a steady stream of completely unconvincing ho-ho-hos that I couldn’t help laughing. The weather was mild, the scene pastoral, the ride bumpy, the teenage girls silly, the Santa among the goofiest I’ve ever seen, and I even got in the spirit enough to sing along to the country versions of Christmas songs. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was offbeat and fun. I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys a scenic drive in the country, or loves horses, or has a kid in tow who would find a baby-faced Santa and store-bought cookies special enough. Like me.

The setting:

Goodbye, Santa!

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