- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 23, 2015

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Somewhere along the way, a kid might catch a glimpse of Mrs. Claus.

Maybe she’s running out in front of a horse-drawn carriage of carolers, or perhaps she’s doing a quick cartwheel and darting out of sight.

That - seeing Mrs. Claus and Santa - is 5-year-old Colt Harman’s favorite part of his family’s caroling tradition.

For his dad, Luke Harman, it’s about creating lasting memories for his four young children. It’s also the looks he and the rest of the carolers get from passers-by.

It’s not every day you see a horse-drawn carriage trotting along a busy street. Plus, they’re loud.

“We’re not the most talented, but we make up for it in loudness,” Luke Harman said.

About 50 people - ranging in age from about 6 months to 80-something - met this past Saturday for the fifth year of caroling, this time at Victor and Andrea Gonzalez’s Toledo home. The carriage stays in the neighborhood where Luke Harman and his family grew up, caroling for friends and strangers, and the occasional motorist.

There’s one house along the way where the carolers stop every year to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.” The first time the carolers went out, they stopped at the house and asked for a request. The man who lived there requested the patriotic anthem; every year after, the carolers stopped there and infused the Christmas spirit with a little American pride. Although the man died earlier this year, the carolers plan to keep going back to serenade the man’s wife.

The group makes stops, too, at a bar and bowling alley to do a special performance for the crowds.

“When I was a kid, Christmas meant so much,” said Victor Gonzalez. “Hearing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ and ‘Frosty the Snowman’ made you warm inside. It made you so happy to be young. It was so fun.

“When Christmas was around, it changed the mood around the entire city. By caroling and singing those kinds of songs to people, it’s a chance for them to remember their childhood and remember that feeling.”

Gonzalez’s wife, who is expecting twins in January, played Mrs. Claus in years past with her brother, Luke Harman, as Santa. The couple waits for the carolers at a park, greeting their littlest fans and hearing wishes.

The tradition was started in 2011 when Luke Harman and his wife, Jenny, were on a horse-drawn carriage ride at Wheeler Farms near Toledo. The couple wondered what they should do for Luke Harman’s Dec. 21 birthday and the answer was literally right in front of them.

“It’s an awesome time,” said Sharon Schweickert, another relative of the family. “Everybody is excited. We’re all in the Christmas mood.”


Information from: The Blade, https://www.toledoblade.com/

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