Monthly Archives: December 2015

Santa Claus (aka Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas and Kris Kringle)


Santa ClausNumber of years in position: Too many to count

Family: Wife – Mrs. Claus; and of course, our “babies,” Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph

Biggest Career or Life Obstacle I’ve Overcome and How: Time zones. When they started them back in the day, it was a little confusing. Now we’ve got it down pat, though. For example, when children in Norway are awake, children in China are asleep and vice-versa. We just have to plan our route so we don’t get caught. I don’t miss having to rely on sundials at all.

Accomplishment I’m Most Proud Of: Well, sometimes it’s been in the “nick” of time, but I’m happy to say I’ve made it to the homes of all the boys and girls on Earth every Christmas Eve.

Favorite Way to Spend Saturday Afternoon: (Chuckling) Napping. We stay pretty busy here all year, so grabbing 20 or 30 winks is our guilty pleasure. We all do it, including the elves and reindeer.

Favorite TV Show: Anything on the Food Network.

Favorite Movies: Toy Story is a good one, and of course Miracle on 34th Street. Reindeer Games wasn’t what I expected, though.

Last Book Read: Chimneys of the World, 2015. It’s very handy.

Favorite Sports Teams: Oh, that’s easy — the kids’ teams. Little League, Pop Warner, summer swim teams, neighborhood pick-up teams, even teams at recess — I pull for them all. And since I live at the North Pole, of course I get a big kick out of the Jamaican bobsled team.

Favorite Comfort Food: Five-alarm chili with a side of barbecue ribs. Keeps me warm.

Favorite Cookies:  All of them — I’m shameless (laughing and shaking his belly). I especially like the ones with sprinkles.

Favorite App: I’d have to say Google Earth. With a delivery route like ours it can be a real time saver. Hard to spot some homes from the air — igloos in the snow, tree houses in the rainforest — that sort of thing. 

Dream Vacation: Mrs. Claus and I are actually into staycations. There’s just something magical about being at home.

Something That Has Changed My Life: The Weather Channel. Some people think we have a magic snowglobe or something like that at the North Pole that predicts the weather, but that’s not really the case. Things were tricky back in the earlier centuries.

Favorite Hobbies: Carpentry, ice fishing, tinkering with the sleigh. And I grow my own carrots and celery for the reindeer. They’re crazy about those, you know. Eat ’em like candy 

Secret Aspiration: To sing with Sha Na Na. I just love those doo-wop songs from the ’50s and ’60s. The elves and I sang “Rama Lama Ding Dong” in the North Pole talent show this year.

Reality Show I Would Totally Win: “The Amazing Race.” We’ve been playing our own version of it every Christmas Eve for, gosh, well, eons, so I’d like to think we’re pretty good at it. (wink)

Something People Would Be Surprised to Know About Me: That really is me at the mall, you know. 

Old-Fashioned Christmas

Photos courtesy of Thomasville Main Street and Tourism

Photos courtesy of Thomasville Main Street and Tourism

The Victorian Christmas Festival in Thomasville, Georgia celebrates the season with timeless fun. 

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without its time-honored traditions, but there is always room to add a new custom to the festivities – especially if it conjures up the spirit of Christmases past. A trip to Thomasville, Georgia for the community’s Victorian Christmas Festival might be the perfect way to indulge in some old-fashioned holiday revelry.

 The Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 event, which will be held Thursday, December 10 and Friday, December 11, attracts 7,000 to 10,000 people a night. With an atmosphere of family friendly fun that reflects a simpler time, the festival started 29 years ago to revive the city’s downtown area. 

Getaways-1-Roasting-marshmallowsHighlights of the event include carriage rides, marshmallow toasting, chestnut roasting, live musical entertainment, visits with St. Nick and reenactments of Christ’s birth at a live nativity scene.

“The festival is a homecoming for so many people, and it just seems to grow every year,” says Karen Smith, executive director of Thomasville Main Street and Tourism.

Getaways-1-Victorians-with-DogsArt and Foal 

With its brick-paved streets and renovated Victorian-era storefronts, downtown Thomasville is the perfect setting for an old-fashioned Christmas celebration. During the festival people clad in Victorian costumes – along with nutcracker, toy soldier and snow queen stilt walkers – will stroll through a six-block downtown area that is closed to traffic.

Some of the new attractions this year include a main stage for the live entertainment, which changes every 30 minutes, and live ice sculpting. In addition, plein air artists will be set up throughout downtown Thomasville.

“The artists will be painting scenes of what they see, and the paintings will be available for sale in the Visitors Center after the festival,” says events manager Sarah Turner. 

For the first time this year, festivalgoers also can try to “Stump the Artist,” when local artist Rich Curtis creates pen and pencil drawings on demand for $1 to $1.50. 

“People can ask him to draw anything they can think of to see if he can do it,” Turner says. “You give him the money, and he gives you the drawing. They can see him draw in real time.”

The festival also will feature the world’s largest rocking horse, another new attraction this year, to pay homage to a popular Victorian toy. 

The wooden rocking horse measures 18 feet tall and 24 feet long, and people young and old can climb a ladder to rock on the horse adorned with a Santa hat on its head and a garland of poinsettias around its neck. 

GetawayFor those who prefer a longer equine trek, the 20-minute horse-drawn carriage rides will begin at the historic Thomas County courthouse and travel through the downtown streets.

“The carriages are hand-crafted in south Georgia, and a camera will be set up across the street from our Big Oak downtown to take free pictures as they go by,” Smith says. “The oak tree is more than 300 years old, and it will be surrounded by luminaries.” 

Getaways-1-Town-and-lightsOpen for Business

With downtown businesses remaining open both nights, festivalgoers may feel as if they have stumbled into Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. The event also will feature a number of outdoor demonstration stations. The crafters, who will sell their wares, will include candle maker Dorcus Miller, candy maker Wes Raley, linocut and printer Janae Easton, and the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire” blacksmith Trenton Tye.

Other local shopkeepers will exhibit skills from a bygone era as well. These demonstrations will include the making of waxed canvas and leather goods at Sturdy Brothers, loom weaving inside Wiregrass Gallery and knitting at Fuzzy Goat.

Live freeze models will perform in the large picture windows of The New Image, a local dress shop.

“People can watch them change poses, and it’s hard to tell if they are real people or mannequins,” says Smith.

Mary Madison Boutique will hold a fashion show each night. Other entertainment on both nights will include Christmas carols played by the musical trio “Revival Railroad” outside of ForeveRetro and a live jazz band performance inside Grassroots Coffee.

On Thursday night a hand bell choir will play inside Trolly’s Designer Fabrics, while a book signing featuring Civil War re-enactor James Huffstodt will take place outside The Bookshelf on Friday night.

Getaways-1-Santa-and-boysChristmas face painting will delight the little ones, and Victorian photo cutouts will be set up for fun photo opportunities. Restaurants also will be open, and vendors will sell food and drinks on the streets.

“The festival is a great way to kick off the holiday season,” Smith says. “It gets everyone in the Christmas spirit.”

By Morgan Davis



Too Good to be True

A & E

Jersey BoysJersey Boys, the award-winning Broadway musical of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is coming to the area for six nights

Anyone who has ever sung along to a Four Seasons tune is in for a thrill when Jersey Boys – The Story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons comes to town. The 2006 Tony, Grammy and Olivier Award-winning Best Musical tells the true story of four blue-collar kids who became an international singing sensation known as the Four Seasons.

The group – made up of Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi – wrote their own songs and invented a sound that no one had ever heard before.

The musical features their legendary hits such as “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Rag Doll,” “Oh, What a Night” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” The creative team behind the scenes includes two-time Tony Award-winning director Des McAnuff, book writers Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, composer Bob Gaudio, lyricist Bob Crewe and choreographer Sergio Trujillo.

As one of the most successful acts in pop music history, the group sold 175 million records worldwide. Even though the boys sang in perfect harmony on stage, it was a different story off stage. This tell-all story follows them from the streets of New Jersey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

If You Go:

What: Jersey Boys – The Story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

Where: Bell Auditorium

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, December 8 – Thursday, December 10; 8 p.m. Friday, December 11; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, December 12; 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday, December 13

How Much: $43 – $92

More Info: (706) 722-3521,

This is my Christmas card to you

Southern Hospitality

I apologize if you haven’t received a Christmas card from me in the mail, especially if you sent me one, but the truth is, I didn’t send them out this year. In fact, I haven’t sent them but one time in the last eight years. The worst part is I don’t even know why I haven’t sent them out.

I used to always send out Christmas cards. And I’ve saved ones we’ve received like, from forever, filed away with our other Christmas decorations and paraphernalia in large boxes stored in the garage. Every year I lament when the first cards arrive in our mailbox, “I really should send out Christmas cards this year.” But I don’t, and why don’t I?

Well, as is true with many things in life, I wait around and miss out on the good cards. That, or the ones I really like are outrageously expensive and don’t quite convey the message I want to say.

Oh! I think I’d especially like to include a photograph with these imaginary Christmas cards that I plan to send out each year. That alone is daunting.

The last time I can remember sending out cards was 2008, when I included a photo of Katie, Russell and me standing in front of a huge Christmas tree. After that, I kept putting off picture-taking and card-sending. But last year — ahhh, last year, I had no excuse. You see, I had beautiful photos of Katie and Michael’s October wedding. So I decided to DO IT: send out cards with the wedding photo of our entire family.

Sadly, I could not get the photo to download. I was going to send it electronically to CVS — I’ve done this many times before — but it wouldn’t work. Then I took my flash drive over to the photo lab, but forgot to make multiples of this one special 4 x 6. Next, I considered Snapfish, Shutterfly or Vista Print, but the deadline had passed. Plus, I couldn’t find any cards with the built-in frame to surround the photo.

Self-doubt set in and I began to waver, thinking, “Anyway, who sends out wedding photos at Christmastime?” I thought it was a swell idea at first, but was it, really, since I’d never seen it done?

The day before Christmas, would you believe we got a card just as I’m describing from some dear friends in Myrtle Beach with their daughter’s wedding photo? Then it hit me! I COULD do the same thing. But I was out of time, and where would I get decent cards at this late hour?

The day after Christmas I was shopping in Hobby Lobby, and, lo and behold, there they were – not just any Christmas cards, but TWO BOXES of the ones that almost perfectly matched the wedding invitation – ivory with black swirls and a merlot ribbon (the color of the bridesmaid’s dresses.) I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Again, I tried to send the order to CVS electronically and this time – I am not making this up – my ding-dong laptop informed me that I had a dead battery. When I tried to buy one, Batteries Plus said it had to be ordered and would take two business days to get here. Argh! Best Buy (where I bought my laptop three years ago) said they don’t carry laptop batteries, adding that I needed to go to the store where I bought the laptop. Duh! I bought it from THEM!

I went back to CVS, this time with my flash drive, and there was a long line of people waiting for the photo lab. This happened for days, so by the time I was finally able to get the cards done, Christmas had come and gone by a full week.

“Only YOU, Ann,” Russell said, shaking his head when I explained my dilemma. “What do you mean by that?” I asked.  “Well, you send out cards for every other holiday: Valentine’s, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween and Thanksgiving — but you miss Christmas…”  I cut him off with, “But — is it too LATE to send them out for this year?” He said, “Well, since it’s December 30, yes, I would say so.”

So, this year, here’s your card in the form of a column. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Prissy Pollyanna and Oscar the Grouch.

 - Ann Ipock

Author of Life is Short, But It’s Wide; Life is Short, So Read This Fast; and Life is Short, I wish I Was Taller

Fort Gordon Christmas House

Community Groups in Action

Volunteers for Fort Gordon’s Christmas House, which helps military personnel provide toys and a meal for their families during the holidays, stock their shelves with toys to distribute to soldiers that qualify for the income-based program.

Santa Claus can always use a little help at Christmastime, and the Fort Gordon Christmas House helps him distribute toys during the holidays. The income-based program is open to service members from all branches of the military at Fort Gordon.

“This program is for service members that may not be able to provide a traditional holiday celebration for their families,” says Teri Ryan, the community services relocation specialist for Fort Gordon and this year’s Christmas House coordinator.

Christmas House originated in 1966 when a group of nurses from Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center started a teddy bear drive for military personnel who couldn’t afford to travel home or purchase toys for the holidays.

This year program volunteers, who include about 60 “elves” that serve on various Christmas House committees, hope to raise enough funds to provide toys and a meal for at least 300 families.

To be eligible for the program, soldiers must submit an application, which is reviewed by a committee. The program also is open to surviving spouses of deceased service members and to military retirees. Those who qualify for assistance may receive toys, a gift card to the commissary or both. 

Christmas House, which serves children ages 0-18, accepts donations of new toys as well as monetary contributions from Fort Gordon personnel and the local community.

FORT GORDON HOUSE“This program is supported solely by donations,” Ryan says. “It’s not a government-funded program.” 

Soldiers are assigned a time to visit the Christmas House on the distribution days, which are Wednesday, December 2 and Thursday, December 3 this year. Once they sign in, an “elf” helps them select at least two toys per child based on age and gender. Any children who receive gifts must be enrolled in school and live at home with a service member.

Have Yourself a Merry Simple Christmas

In The Home

HOMEEscaping the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a young Evans couple chooses a style of “simple elegance” for Yuletide décor in their River Island home

The back-to-nature ambiance of River Island is the perfect place for a down-to-earth Evans couple to call home. Lynn and Kyle Flanagan moved into their house in October 2014, and they enjoy nothing more than sharing it with others.

“Our goal is to fill up the house with people to love on,” says Lynn, who was born and raised in Appling.

The more the merrier as far as the Flanagans are concerned, especially at Christmastime. 

“Half of the people who come here aren’t related to us. They might be away from their families,” says Lynn. “When you’re here, you’re family. So we ask people, ‘Are you sure you still want in?’”

NutcrackerHoliday Gifts

Every day with more people in the house is a gift for the Flanagans, and they received one of the greatest gifts of all when their 15-month-old son, Keagan, was born three weeks before they moved into their home. After all, nothing says “family” quite like a new baby.

The couple met at the University of Georgia, and they moved to the area from Athens, where Kyle owned a fertilizer company, seven years ago.

“We had wanted to build for quite some time,” Lynn says.

“But we wanted to wait until we knew we were going to stay here for awhile,” adds Kyle, the franchise owner of Scotts Miracle-Gro of Augusta. “We knew the look and feel we wanted, but we didn’t have a specific idea in mind.”

Fortunately, however, their builder, Jamie Reynierson of J. Reynierson Homes Inc., shared their philosophy. 

“Jamie is very creative. He used to build in Hilton Head. He had that same vision that we did,” Kyle says. “We tried to give our house a Lowcountry feel. We didn’t want to create a beach house, but we wanted to create something that fit in here. We wanted to create a river house.”

Kyle bought the River Island lot four years ago for Lynn as a surprise anniversary gift. (They were married December 15, 2007.) He was attracted to the neighborhood because of its boardwalks and its proximity to the Savannah River.

“I’m a big water guy,” says Kyle, a Florida native who likes the beach and paddle boarding. “We just love the water access and all of the trails and boardwalks everywhere. You’re still right in the middle of everything, but when I come home from work I don’t feel like I’m in Evans any more.”

CHRISTMAS TREEHome for Christmas

The house features pinewood flooring with a walnut stain, transom windows above doorways, 11-foot ceilings downstairs and nine-foot ceilings upstairs. The Flanagans also wanted a feeling of “simple elegance” in their home, and this style is reflected in their holiday décor.

“We didn’t want to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of stressing over Christmas,” says Lynn. “That’s not what we believe in.”

In the family room, garland featuring greenery, pinecones and twists of burlap covers the mantel. A hurricane candleholder stands guard at each end of the mantel. Lynn surrounded the white candles with red cranberries, illustrating her penchant for simple, natural ingredients to decorate their home.

“We want it to be cozy,” says Lynn. “We’re not ornate people.”

STOCKINGSThree stockings hang from the fireplace that features a crushed oyster shell tabby surround and a raised brick hearth made of reclaimed brick from an old street in Savannah. The wood-burning fireplace has a gas starter, and the mantel is made of a piece of reclaimed barn wood from Savannah. The room also features a coffered ceiling and horizontal wood paneling on the walls. 

The Christmas tree in the corner of the room is simply, but artistically, decorated with burlap ribbon and large red burlap balls. The tree also features snowflakes made of seat caning material by employees at Augusta Training Shop, a nonprofit organization where mentally and physically challenged individuals repair and refinish furniture.

Kyle began his involvement with Augusta Training Shop four years ago when his company became a sponsor for one of its fundraisers. “I went down there, and it changed my life,” he says. “It changed my entire outlook.”

Garlands, Bows and Christmas Lights

Since they enjoy fellowship and entertaining, the Flanagans wanted an open floor plan in their home. 

“I want people to be able to gather here,” says Lynn. “Our vision for the house is to have a place where people can have fellowship and feel welcome.”

One of their favorite ways to share their home is to open the double doors that lead from the family room to the adjoining screened-in porch. 

“I love it when we have a 70-degree day, and we can open both doors between the family room and the back porch,” Kyle says. However, he adds, “None of our doors stay shut. We love hanging out in the heart of the house.”

At Christmastime, a green garland with white lights and red bows adorns the porch railing and an oversized wreath lights up a wall. The wreath includes pinecones, red berries and a giant red bow. The Flanagans and their friends can relax on the resin wicker furniture, and the porch also boasts a bead board ceiling, penta-treated hardwood tongue-and-groove flooring and lanterns on the wall. Although the lanterns look like props out of “A Christmas Carol,” they provide year-round enjoyment.

“We let the lanterns run 24/7,” says Kyle. “I love the way the light flickers.”

A brick firepit in the backyard is another favorite gathering spot. The firepit, along with the driveway, is made from reclaimed brick from the old Savannah street, and shards of broken glass are embedded around the flame.

The property attracts uninvited – but still welcome – visitors as well. “Every single night deer are running through the yard,” says Kyle.

They might not be reindeer, but Rudolph’s red nose would have no trouble spotting the Flanagan home on Christmas Eve. The front of the property is aglow with white lights around the house frame, windows and landscaping. That’s not surprising since Kyle also owns Christmas Décor, which does exterior holiday decorating for business and residential customers.

The house features a metal roof over the front porch and a trio of dormer windows. Exposed wood and metal on the front porch add charm to the exterior space.

Greenery with lights and a red bow is nestled in the transom window that tops the double wood front doors. A red burlap wreath with beige burlap poinsettias decorates each door. The doors lead into a two-story foyer, where garland with burlap poinsettias and chevron bows is wrapped along the stair railing and the upstairs hallway railing.

Bringing People Together

The master bedroom boasts a ceiling fan, horizontal paneling on the walls and a fireplace with a raised brick hearth and glass tile surround. A cup of water for their 10-year-old dachshund, Maggie – Kyle’s companion since his college days – also is likely to be perched on the fireplace. 

“She’s been through everything with me,” he says. “She prefers to drink water from a cup. She learned to do that by traveling with us.” 

The adjoining master bath features a walk-through tile shower, vessel sinks with two separate vanities on opposite sides of the room and a stand-alone, European-style tub. “I wanted a big shower, so the room had to match,” says Kyle.

Opening onto the family room, the kitchen features stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, simple molding and cabinetry, an island with a blue finish that offers a coastal feel, metal lights above the island and a split farmhouse sink.

DINING ROOM CHRISTMASThe kitchen also opens onto the dining room, which features a pine ceiling with exposed beams, a wooden chandelier and recessed lighting. A large, custom-made farmhouse table with a distressed look offers plenty of seating in the center of the room.

“We were trying to fit as many people as we could,” says Kyle. “The table gets oiled once a year, and it’s good to go.”

A Christmas table runner topped with a centerpiece of greenery and a single red taper brightens the table during the holidays. On either side of the centerpiece, a silver napkin ring anchors a red napkin with an artichoke fold.

“We wanted a big table where we could seat our whole family,” says Lynn.

Of course, there’s another reason that Lynn enjoys her time in the kitchen – and that big table – as well.

“I spell love ‘f-o-o-d.’ Food is how I show our family and friends love,” says Lynn. “Food brings people together.”

By Betsy Gilliland

Mrs. Claus’ Fruitcake


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped mixed candied fruit and peel
2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar, grinded to a powder
4 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped cherries

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9x5x3 loaf pan and dust with flour. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over half of the dried fruits and mix together; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the vanilla and milk; set aside. Sift the rest of the flour with the baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, thoroughly beat together the butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. The mixture will appear curdled, but it will smooth out when the flour is added.

Add the flour mixture and milk mixture in three installments, combining gently between each addition, starting with the flour, then the milk and ending with the flour again. Do not overmix the batter at this stage. Add dried fruits and chopped cherries and gently stir them in with a spatula. Pour batter into pan and bake about 45-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack to cool slightly. Remove cake and allow to cool before icing and slicing.

For icing, mix powdered sugar, vanilla and milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and spoon over cooled cake. Garnish with remaining candied fruit and serve.


Peaches, Pickles and Moon Pies


Getaway2.-Main-web-photoIf you’re hungering for way to ring in the New Year besides watching an 11,875-pound crystal ball drop in the Big Apple, then get a taste of a Southern-style celebration in these cities. 

Look, up in the sky! It’s a peach. It’s a pickle. It’s a Moon Pie.

New Year’s Eve revelers from across the South could utter those unlikely words as they begin the countdown to 2016. And no, not because they’ve imbibed a little too much party punch.

Peach DropDepending on where they are, they just might celebrate the New Year with the drop of a peach or a pickle or a Moon Pie. From big cities to small towns, these New Year’s Eve street parties honor local icons and traditions with a distinctly Southern flavor 

Atlanta: In the Georgia capital, the Peach Drop – which lays claim to the title of the Largest New Year’s Eve Celebration in the Southeast – includes an 800-pound peach that drops 138 feet at Underground Atlanta.

Mount Olive, North Carolina: A glowing, 3-foot pickle descends the flagpole at Mount Olive Pickle Company at the stroke of 7 p.m. (When it is 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, it’s midnight Greenwich Mean Time).

PickleMobile, Alabama: This city drops a giant, 600-pound, electric Moon Pie from the RSA Tower. Festivities include a Mardi Gras-style parade because, after all, Moon Pies traditionally are thrown at Mardi Gras events in Mobile. 

Panama City, Florida: At midnight an illuminated, 800-pound beach ball descends from a tower 12 stories high. Earlier in the evening, fireworks and the drop of 7,000 beach balls highlight a family celebration.

Eastover, North Carolina: In honor of the town’s original name, Flea Hill, a 3-foot tall, 30-pound, wooden and foam flea named Jasper is dropped at the town’s community center.

Fayetteville, Arkansas: New Year’s Eve partiers and dedicated Razorbacks fans go hog wild in this college town, the home of the University of Arkansas, when a locally sculpted, winged hog with an 8.5-foot wingspan is dropped in Fayetteville Square at midnight.

Moon Pie DropMemphis, Tennessee: In the Beale Street historic district, locals and visitors celebrate New Year’s Eve with the Guitar Drop, where a giant blue Gibson guitar falls on the Blues Alley outside the Hard Rock Café. Earlier in the evening, people are invited to “Bury Your Blues” by throwing a paper, which lists anything that makes them feel blue, into an open coffin on Beale Street.

Princess Anne, Maryland: Clad in top hat, bowtie and cape, a stuffed muskrat, aka Marshall P. Muskrat, descends down a zip line from the top of a firefighter’