What It Was Like

December 4th, 2018    4:15pm

So, last Saturday night was the big finale. As sad as it could have been, I appreciated knowing that this was going to be my final night as the town crier at the Santa Claus Arrival at Bothell’s Country Village Shopping Center.

It wasn’t my choice for this holiday tradition to end, or that of Leann Tesoriari, who operates this quaint village of shops in north Bothell.  She was one of the family members who voted to continue this urban oasis, but was out-voted by family members who wanted to cash-in while the selling was good. 

Hangin’ with Leann

And that’s totally understandable. Yet, with the sale of the property and all those stores disappearing over the next six months to make way for one of those mixed-use “urban villages”, it was just another reminder of another thing going away. One more of those places that we’ll remember fondly and that will inspires stories as we tell future generations about what used to be on that property.

I was trying not to get overly macabre about the event. My plan was to go in, live in the now and experience every second of what I was about to do for the last time. And that’s exactly what I did.

For all but one of the previous 18 years of my life, the first Saturday of December meant that I would find myself checking into the Country Village offices around 5:45, put on my Dickens-era top hat, a shawl, a scarf, grab the scroll of announcements and, of course, my town crier bell. Then, from 6-6:50pm, I would walk all over the shopping center, ringing my bell and announcing things like, “Hear ye, hear ye!  Santa Claus is coming! Sports & weather next.” Or, “Hear ye, hear ye! Santa Claus is coming to town, just like the song said.”  I had fun with it.

Doing this as many years as I have, I knew the routine, what to do, where to be, what to bring. After the first decade or so, I decided to go on line and buy a real solid bell. A big brass job, that really clanged. In-between Christmas’s, it rested on the top of a shelf right next to my desk.

As we prepared to dash out the door, I went to that spot to grab the bell and it was gone. Not there. Maybe I put it on another shelf?  My wife theorized I had loaned it to someone. I didn’t remember doing that.

We had a bell crisis.

We reached out to the friends hosting the pre- and post-arrival party and Annette said that she had a bell I could borrow. That was great, but what happened to my bell?

We arrived at the Dwyer house, where Annette informed us that she couldn’t find her bell, but a store at the Country Village where she worked would loan us a bell. The Santa Arrival would be saved.

I went to the Shopping Center early to pick up the bell and the owner said I could have any bell I wanted. My eyes went straight to a rather ornate bell with a $90 price tag on it. If it slipped out of my hand during the evening and got bent, I would no doubt be buying this bell. I would be the most careful town crier in the history of crying.

With the $90 bell

Off to the offices I went, to pick up my outfit. I lifted the cape, pulled out the hat and underneath it all was my bell. I had accidentally left it with them for the past year and it wasn’t until tonight that I even knew it was here. I returned the ornate bell, and then begun clanging like I had never clanged before. I went into stores, always asking first if it was OK for me to cry in their store.  One woman replied, “Absolutely! I’ve been here every year you’ve done this for the past 18 years.”

The rain held off. The night was mild for a November evening. The dancing elves and The Grinch entertained the crowd as Santa and his lighted Gingerbread sleigh made his way to the crowd. He waved his magic candy cane and the Christmas Tree lights came on.

The Christmas season, for me, was now officially underway. For one last, jolly evening, we put on a magical show for hundreds of young, awe-struck eyes, followed by a gathering at Center Court area to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. The line was long, but no one seemed to care. Santa Claus had come to town and I had announced it, just as I always have.

As I look back at the previous Santa Arrivals at Country Village, they all had names. There was the year that “Someone parked illegally and we had to have the car towed so Santa could arrive.” There was the year of steady rain and a soggy Santa. The frigid cold year. The year that, back when Santa actually flew in on his sleigh dangled by a wire, that he came so early, we weren’t ready for him. There was the year he got stuck.

For our finale, this will be remember as the year the event was literally saved by the bell.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tim Hunter

 

 

 

Here Comes Dennis Brown! Here Comes Dennis Brown!

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Tucked away in a little booth-like store in Bothell’s Country Village is a sculptor named Dennis Brown.

Dennis has been doing what he loves and making a living out of it for 45 years. He’s mastered the art of taking some clay and turning it into his own, unique figurines of Santa Claus, elves and other mythical creatures.  And somewhere along the line, he decided to embrace the fact that he looks like Father Christmas.

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To walk into his shop, you could easily feel like you accidentally wandered into Santa’s hobby shop, where he goes to get away from the clanging of the toys being made or Mrs. Claus asking him to eat more & maintain his bowl full of jelly appearance.  Except, he genuinely appreciates you coming into his craft room, where he works on more pieces while displaying his various works all the way up until the second they’re sold. And he does sell out every year.

We stopped by and chatted with Dennis on Saturday and heard the thumbnail version of his story.  While he maintains his store year ’round, starting November 1st he’s at his little shop selling his crafts 7 days a week until the last one is sold. It’s then that he’ll relax and enjoy the holiday season or at least what’s left of it. Because on January 1, the process starts all over again as he begins to restock his shelves with more of his unique-looking clay sculptures.

People actually come from all over to buy his works.  Dennis told us the story of the family from Connecticut who  has a 16-year tradition of flying out here just to see him, buy some Santa’s, and then head back to Holiday Inn country. His works are hard to resist and we left with a family heirloom for the kids to fight over some day.  I asked if he would pose with the one we bought.

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Dennis is the one on the left.  We now have our first Dennis Brown Santa on display at the Hunter household and I have this feeling that it won’t be the last.

So, if you’d like a little kick-start to your holiday season, want to just hang with Santa and maybe even start collecting a few pieces of hand-crafted art, aim your sleigh towards Bothell’s Country Village Shopping Center and say hi to Dennis Brown.  Or, you can always just order things from him online here.  Good guy.  A right jolly old elf.

Tim Hunter