Illinois Valley was full of Christmas cheer Saturday

Lilyana Guthrie, 5, gets a treat when she visits Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Illinois Valley Fire District Station No. 1 on Caves Hwy. Saturday, Dec. 10. (Photo by Lindsay Martinho for the Illinois Valley News)

Christmas cheer came to the Illinois Valley in the form of two separate Santa events Saturday, Dec. 10. The Illinois Valley Fire District and the I.V. Chamber of Commerce worked hard as Santa’s elves to usher in the holiday spirit with cookies, cocoa and gifts for many local youths.
IVFD’s Santa event began at 11 a.m., with volunteers eagerly lined up behind a table that held an array of sweet treats and warm beverages for those in attendance. Santa Larry and his Mrs. Claus, Margaret, jovially sat with one of their elves, working together to give many children an authentic Santa experience. One thing in particular that stuck out at this event was the way Santa and Mrs. Claus interacted so effortlessly, and the reason for this became very apparent as the event continued. Though Santa’s missus was a newer addition to the event, Margaret and Larry have known each other for over 50 years.
The pair had grown up together, and although they went their separate ways into adulthood, marrying different people and beginning their own families, the spark that had grown between them had never truly been extinguished. It took a long time, over 50 years, for the two to find their way back to one another. It was hard not to notice the way that Santa Larry seemed to be completely enamored by his missus, and when asked about it, Mrs. Claus simply responded, “If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes.”
This event was more than your ordinary holiday cheer, it was a chance to see a Christmas love story in action.
On that note, the Illinois Valley Chamber of Commerce held its annual toy drive later in the day,

spreading kindness and compassion to many local families with a Santa-viewing of their own. This event was markedly different than the one that had been held only hours prior, namely because attendees didn’t even have to leave their vehicles as they drove up to receive gifts and treats.
The chamber, along with generous support from the Oregon Caves Chevron, the Main Street Cave Junction program, IVFD, WaFd bank, and Yeti’s Ice Cream, served twice as many children as it had the previous year, with board member Christopher Hall emphasizing that this year’s efforts were a true “all hands on deck” situation. Hall also added that this was “as close to the North Pole as Cave Junction gets.” And the hustle and bustle behind the scenes only served to back up this point. Volunteers were busily sorting through and wrapping gifts, noting a distinct need for more gender-neutral toy options but doing what they could with the abundance of gifts that they had.
Long-standing I.V. residents Tim and Pam Lenhart decked the halls in their Santa and Mrs. Claus costumes, sitting behind a large snow-globe fixture for unique and socially distanced photo opportunities. The pair has been doing this event for many years, with Pam ordinarily baking dozens of sweet treats for the event. This year, there was a bit of a hiccup with that plan when Pam’s oven stopped working, but the handy elves at the local Grocery Outlet made sure to donate an abundance of cookies and candy so that local residents could still enjoy the event to the fullest possible extent.
All in all, spreading Christmas cheer was a great way for many locals to spend their Saturday, and it was a wonderful reminder that when the community is able to come together, great things can be accomplished and people can walk away smiling.