By Jared D. Childress | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Torrential rain couldn’t drown out the spirit of “Christmas in Oak Park.”
More than 230 parents and children braved the elements to meet Black Santa at Underground Books’ signature event Dec. 10.
Adrianne Hall is the chief operating officer of St. Hope, the nonprofit that owns the bookstore. She said the fourth annual event saw one of its best turnouts, matched only by last year when it drew roughly the same number of guests.
“[Attendance] was about the same as last year, which was really surprising given the storm,” Hall said. “I can only imagine how many would have come if it wasn’t raining.”
The event originally was scheduled to have indoor and outdoor components, with holiday vendors outside and Santa’s KidsZone at Esther’s Park, but reports of rain muddled those plans. The event was moved fully indoors, where guests enjoyed complimentary hot chocolate at the Guild, free face painting in the bookstore, and a free photo with Santa.
Kamuri Spears, manager of Underground Books, said this was one of its most successful events this year.
“Even with the rain and storming the way it is, we’ve had a great turnout,” Spears said. “It’s not always easy for kids of color to find a brown Santa to take a picture with, so we provide that in Oak Park for all the kids.”
The line for Santa wrapped around the bookstore’s perimeter, stretching into the courtyard of the 40 Acres complex and into the Guild.
Maya Dennis made sure to get to the event early so her 4-year-old daughter, Marley Rose, could meet a Santa who looked like her.
“I think it’s awesome to do this for the community so that our kids can see a Santa that looks like them and represents our community,” Dennis, 42, said. “Representation is important, for sure.”
Spears, the store manager, was seen working away most of the event. Asked her favorite part of the day, she said it “probably wouldn’t make sense,” but proceeded to explain.
“Seeing kids in patent leather shoes and tights was my favorite part,” Spears said. “To me, that’s Christmas.”