By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
SOUTHGATE – Santa greeted children and pets Dec. 9, listening to wish lists, and posing for photos with children, cats and dogs in the festively decorated Southgate Historical Museum, 14210 Dix-Toledo Road.
Jerry Pesci, vice chairman for the Southgate Historical Foundation, who personifies the jolly old elf in red, said this was the 10th year the group has held a Christmas Open House for Santa photos.
Pesci said Dec. 7 and 8 Santa was at Southgate’s Kiwanis Park, 13901 Leroy, with the Great Lakes Live Steamers, miniature trains that take families on a Christmas Express train ride to visit Santa.
“But there are long lines, and this is a smaller venue,” Pesci said. “We can take all the time necessary. Some kids need a little warming up, staring at me, trying to decide what they want to do, and we have the time here that many other venues don’t have.”
Pesci also serves as the city historian, and confirmed that he really does know who is on the naughty or nice list.
Tom Lewis, Historical Foundation board member, said the Historical Foundation, which operates the museum, formed with a merger of the city’s Historical Society and Historical Commission initiated by Mayor Joseph Kuspa, and operates independently of the city.
Lewis said the group advertises the Santa visit at the city’s historical museum as pet-friendly, which families with dogs and cats were taking advantage of Dec. 9.
Natalie Lorenz, who brought her daughter Lyla Bertera, 4, to see Santa, said her husband initially suggested making the event pet-friendly. However, their family dogs were absent that day because they needed to be bathed before they could be brought to visit with Santa.
Her daughter, however, was ready and eager to visit with Santa at the historical museum, a tradition her family has followed since she was a baby.
“She absolutely loves coming to see Santa,” Lorenz said. “He’s just been so wonderful every year, and she couldn’t wait to come and see him today. We love coming here, and they do a fantastic job putting this on for the families and the children. It’s wonderful.”
Pudge, an 8-year-old cat pet-parented by Ann Edward of Southgate, was willing to pose with Santa.
Edward said Pudge, who was trained to walk on a leash as a kitten, is comfortable around strangers, and enjoys being petted. She said she took over caring for Pudge when her adult daughter moved out of the family house.
Edward predicted the holiday treat Pudge would ask of Santa he were if so inclined.
“He loves turkey,” she said. “He doesn’t love any seafood.”
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])