As the tugboat slowed and docked in East Toledo on Saturday, many watching on shore cheered in anticipation of the Christmas trees and special guests waiting to be unloaded.
A chorus of “Hi, Santa!” from waiting children greeted the boat’s passengers, which included Mr. and Mrs. Claus, who delivered the trees to waiting families. Saturday marked the fifth year for the event. Onlookers at the National Museum of the Great Lakes met the tugboat — owned by Geo. Gradel Co. — which was loaded with goodies.
Museum spokesman Anna Kolin said the event began as a historical re-enactment of a freighter that brought trees on Lake Michigan to Chicago in the early 1900s, but has blossomed into a Toledo tradition in its own right.
"It's really grown, and we plan on increasing it next year," she said. "This is the most trees we've ever had, which is great. It keeps growing every year."
Aboard the tugboat named “Josephine” were 45 trees from Matthes Evergreen Farm in Ida, Mich., including 10 donated trees for families identified by the East Toledo Family Center.
One belonged to Coleen Mulvaney and Mary Lou Williams, who bought a tree to celebrate with their 7-year-old twins, Kaden and Chloe, who have never had a real Christmas tree before.
“I wanted them to experience the whole thing,” she said. “They had a pretty rough going the first couple years.”
Ms. Mulvaney said she and her spouse wanted to do something special for the twins, whom they adopted four years ago.
The children got a few minutes with Santa as they clutched a new ornament that will eventually adorn the evergreen in their West Toledo home.
“If they keep doing this, it’ll be our tradition to start,” Ms. Williams said.
A new element to Saturday’s event was a raffle contest to travel on the boat with the trees to the museum. Winning this year were Oregon residents Lynn and Paul Gibbs Sr., who brought their son Paul Gibbs Jr.; his wife Kristie; and children Owen, 13, Luke, 11, and Audrey, 7.
Lynn Gibbs said she was elated when she discovered they had won.
“I love tugboats, I love them,” she said as the boat cruised down the Maumee toward its destination. “We’ve been trying for at least 10 years to ride one ... so when we won this we said, ‘This is our Christmas present.’”
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