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Steve Novotney Says, "A Tradition Continues"

It begins again this evening … 5 p.m. … "Letters to Santa" …

A Watchdog Network tradition for many years, the messages sent to jolly ol' Saint Nick are read on the air by Santa himself and by several of his most important elves. The letters are collected from local elementary schools, and in past years they have included everything from world peace to jet airplanes. Imagination is seldom lacking, and Santa and his elves have a ton of fun during the five broadcasts the North Pole have offered us this year.

Along with this evening beginning at 5 p.m., "Letters to Santa" will return Monday through Thursday of next week at the same time. If you hope to have your child's letter included, please mail it ASAP to: Santa Claus, c/o The Watchdog, 1140 Main Street, Wheeling, WV 26003.

When I was a kid, there were TV shows that featured Santa with his letters but, along with Saturday morning comics, that, too, has been tossed in the bin labeled "What Until You Think It Could Be Popular Again."

But guess what? A radio show with Santa and his elves is supremely popular right now, and that's because the Watchdog Network's staff used a plethora of connections to acquire the secret number to the North Pole. Once the legal department worked out the details, such a show was resurrected for the children of the Upper Ohio Valley.

It's some special stuff.

A few oft-recalled Christmas traditions I was lucky enough to experience during my childhood were the Santa in South Wheeling and that Creagan creation in that L.S. Good's front window. Although every Elby's I recall, at this time of year, employed a Saint Nick near the front door it, the "real" Santa was always at Cooey Bentz in the middle of Toyland.

And because my father's office was in downtown Wheeling during the years I was a student at St. Michael's and Linsly, I became very familiar with the Talking Christmas Tree at L.S. Good's on the Market Street side of the store. The dude knew my name, and I still do not know how (my parents have, for some reason, held on to that information), but little did they know I would marry that real Santa's granddaughter, Michelle Eikey.

My wife is the daughter of the late Veronica Eikey, and her father, Rod, and Veronica's father was John Rasakiewicz, hence the connection. So yeah, I now know how Santa knew my name, but I have no clue how he knew yours.

Oglebay's Festival of Lights was launched the same year I graduated from Linsly (1985), so that was a cruise that became, from time to time each winter, a replacement for the traditional movie out at the mall. The Lights, a weekend ride during those years that would need at least an hour to navigate before stopping at Rax for another BBC with fries and a Coke or getting six slices of DiCarlo's and abandoning all decorum in the parking lot.

Christmas is a pretty big deal here in the Wheeling area, and it's enjoyable to live within it. Even here in the "Friendly City" people just seem nicer, and I believe this year I have seen more decorated homes in a number of neighborhoods in Wheeling, Moundsville, and across the river, too.

And that's because our children want Santa to find the chimneys atop their homes so they can offer a glass of milk and a few of his favorite cookies in exchange for their dreams-come-true. That's where the letters come in, of course.

"Steve Novotney Live" will air from 2-5 p.m. on Monday from Quaker Steak & Lube; 4-5 p.m. on Tuesday; 3-5 p.m. Wednesday; and 4-5 p.m. on Thursday. On Friday, one week from today, the program returns to its 4-7 p.m. time slot and will feature local musicians performing our favorites at this time of year.