UTM graduate has long history of service with Santa's Village
Posted: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 10:36 am
Calvin Elder has a history with Santa’s Village. He began helping with the event in 2003 as a freshman at the University of Tennessee at Martin.
In response to requests from two Department of Agriculture professors, Dr. Joey Mehlhorn and the late Dr. Tom Greer, Elder became a greenery cutter and assisted with other tasks until the Ned Ray McWherter Agricultural Complex at UT Martin was transformed into a holiday fantasyland.
This year’s event is slated for 6-9 p.m., Dec. 9-10; 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Dec. 11; and 1-5 p.m., Dec. 12. Doors open at 6 p.m., Dec. 9. Admission is a suggested donation of $5 worth of nonperishable foods and/or toys.
“They (Mehlhorn and Greer) were also offering bonus points in class, and I sure needed them at the time,” said Elder.
Elder went on to graduate with a degree in agricultural business in 2007 and is in the process of earning a master’s degree in agriculture leadership education and communication from UT Knoxville.
From 2008 until recently, he was a 4-H Youth Development Agent and Adult Agriculture Agent in Dyer County. A resident of Gates, he is now employed by Farm Service Agency.
Early on at Santa’s Village, Elder moved from greenery cutter to providing wagon rides for children, something he and his dad, Philip Elder, have been doing at other events for more than 20 years.
He approached Martin Department of Parks and Recreation about the idea of bringing horse-drawn wagon rides to the event “and it was a hit from day one.” He added, “The children really enjoy seeing the big horses because it is not something they get to see every day.”
He also enjoys the children who take the wagon rides. The children always ask if they can pet and sit on the horses. “I get to hear everything from Christmas songs, what they want for Christmas, jokes and stories.”
Elder said that in addition to Martin Parks and Recreation and the agricultural complex personnel, James and Rachel Mathis always help with the Santa’s Village rides.
Elder said he and his dad spend about 300 hours a year giving rides “for a good cause,” such as Relay For Life, Buck Creek Trail Ride for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and other charitable events and fundraisers.
“I guess the biggest reason I continue to offer the wagon rides is because I enjoy doing it. I also get to see some of my old classmates and professors each year at the event, and I also get to meet new people,” said Elder.
Service agencies receiving food and toys collected at Santa’s Village this year include: Chimes for Charity, We Care Ministries, Obion County Chapter American Red Cross, Santa’s Helpers and Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council. Co-sponsors for the event are the City of Martin and UT Martin.