ALBION – The new 24-foot-long Santa mural that was installed in downtown Albion in late June has created momentum to add more Santa-themed items at Waterman Park.
The Albion Betterment Committee already has been fund-raising for a bronze statue in honor of Charles W. Howard, an Albion man who ran the first Santa Claus School. He operated it from 1937 to 1966. He is revered among people who portray Santa Claus. Twice they have held Santa conferences in Albion, in 2010 and 2015. The Betterment Committee has raised about $35,000 for the memorial statue.
The Albion Merchants Association is taking the lead for a new 16-by-16-foot Santa House that would be in the back corner of the park, near Briggs Alley, according to a layout of park improvements presented last week by the Albion Rotary Club.
The Santa house would be visible from Main Street and the canal. The site could be used during the holiday season and also throughout the year for other events.
The Albion Rotary Club presented the concept for the park to the Village Board last week. Karen Sawicz, president of the club, and Rotary member Charlie Nesbitt asked for permission to work on the project, with the Village Board and Department of Public Works to be kept in the loop of progress.
The Rotary Club would like to see the site renamed to perhaps Santa Claus Lane at Waterman Park.
The Rotary Club wants to add landscaping under the mural, and some small street lights within the park to improve safety and illuminate the mural and future improvements. There could also be Christmas-themed benches.
An existing mural in honor of the quarrymen would also be removed and replaced with another Christmas-themed mural as part of the effort. The quarrymen painting would be relocated at a different site to be determined, according to the Rotary proposal.
The club will work with Betterment Committee and Merchants Association on fund-raising. Sawicz said the groups will likely pursue grants and seek community donations. She is hopeful the projects can be completed over three years.
The Village Board thanked the Rotary Club for spearheading the work, while working with the Betterment Committee and Merchants Association.
Mayor Eileen Banker said the village will need to see more concrete plans for improvements before there is a final OK.
“The promise is we’ll work with you all along the way,” Nesbitt said.