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Children’s Christmas party steams ahead
Last year’s children’s Christmas party was a bit of a wild affair and this year’s proved little different, with the youngsters being entertained with storytelling, sing-along songs, lolly scrambles, and presents from Santa Claus. This year every child was given their own personal kazoo, and the solid wall
of deafening sound closely corresponded to that inside a World Cup soccer stadium in Rio – with Brazil 4-1 ahead!
The grating, screeching din virtually vibrated the fillings out of your teeth. (The kid’s, needless to say, loved it!) Whatever passers-by thought was going on inside the building, there’s little doubt they’d be concerned that the big piece of high-speed machinery that was about to disintegrate was desperately in need of some oil.
Appropriate then that the annual party is always held at the (OMES) Otago Model Engineering Society’s sprawling complex in Kettle Park, St. Kilda. The party is a joint venture between the Irish and Scottish Constitutions in Otago. The last Saturday in November is earmarked for the members, wives, partners and families of Lodge St. Patrick No. 468 (I.C.) and Otago Kilwinning Lodge No. 417 (S.C.) to band together to organise what is an extremely well attended, pleasurable and entertaining event. The venue itself is the key player boasting, as it does, a sizable winding railway track with ride-on steam and diesel locomotives. The site features a deep lake for model watercraft – this even has its’ own working model submarine – (when you can see it!). Within the grounds is a circular testing circuit for miniature racing cars; a comprehensively equipped steam engine shed and, inside the main hall, pint-sized piston engines, steam engines, jet aircraft, boats, warships and two very impressive OO-scale train sets. These latter two dioramas being so life-like that their creation must have taken tens of thousands of man-hours.
Following trips on the steam trains and live entertainment, the children are treated to a sit-down Christmas lunch with a cornucopia of curiosities and delights set on the many tables. Year after year the organisers go the extra nautical mile to ensure that not only the party is a success, but that the whole experience is a child’s delight; packed with subtle touches – such as small bags of reindeer food, within reach of every child’s hand, should Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and his chums chance to fly in. No item is spared detail; even the drink bottles are decorated with reindeer faces and pipe-cleaner antlers, both a forte of the Lodge Secretary’s wife, Lynn Darling‘s creativity, and many hours of toil.
As the party progresses the excitement builds to a crescendo until - as if by magic - at 3pm precisely, Santa arrives bearing bulging bags of gifts for all. This year, giving his reindeer a rest, Santa actually arrived at the OMES’s own St. Kilda Railway Station straddling a steam train. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” he greeted the excited crowd and bade them sit while, aided by his elves, he handed out personalized presents to each of the many kids capsized on the lawn.
Surprisingly Santa is much less politically correct than one might expect of a seventeen-hundred-year-old Saint, asking one ginger-headed young chap, “Hell son, were you actually born with hair that colour, or do you dye it? Ho! Ho! Ho!” Obviously the poor, humiliated lad will be so forever traumatised that he’ll never want to see Santa again; but hey - never mind, the crowd loved it.
One pleased parent, Barry Knox brought his son Jake, and told us, “Jake thinks these parties are great. And the presents are so good! You guys go to so much effort; you really are to be commended.”
This year at least sixty children attended, BUT, if you count all the 40-something-year-olds who queued for train rides and lollies, that figure would
be well over the ton.
So ‘twas a memorable day all round, and we look forward to next year’s festivities … but next time, maybe we’ll give the kazoos a miss.
Otago Model Engineering Society www.omes.org.nz
St. Kilda, Dunedin, New Zealand www.dunedinnz.com