You are the owner of this page.
A1 A1
top story
ECHO holiday dinner brings out believers


In a recent poll of Christmas Day diners, Santa did very well.

Jesus did as well or even better, and we weren’t even asking about him.

On Monday, more than 400 people partook in ECHO’s community Christmas meal at St. William Catholic School in Janesville. More than 100 volunteers served as waiters, bus boys and girls, beverage servers, home delivery drivers, pie cutters, and food servers. About 10 current or former Blackhawk Technical College culinary arts students prepared the food.

The meal seemed like a good place to judge the status of old St. Nick (aka Santa, the big Claus, Father Christmas or other aliases). Did people—even old ones—still believe?

Bill Stevens has been playing guitar at the ECHO Christmas dinner for “20-some” years.

Does he believe in Santa?

“What kind of question is that?” Stevens wanted to know. “I believe in the Santa who comes here. I play music for him all the time.”

Then he added, “But I believe that Jesus is the reason for the season.”

Bonnie Stevens seconded that thought.

The Stevenses opened their set with “Here Comes Santa Claus,” a song that got the volunteers scooping out stuffing, veggies and mashed potatoes to dance behind their chafing dishes.

Later, diners would hear more traditional holiday favorites featuring the Christ child.

Sean Meicher, 8, spoke eloquently about his belief in Santa.

When asked why he believes, Meicher said, “Because he brings us presents.”

Meicher understood Christmas wasn’t just about presents.

“It’s Jesus’ birthday!” Meicher exclaimed.

Margaret Mannion, 3, was volunteering with her mother, Theresa Mannion.

Margaret, who was sporting mouse shoes and a dress with a super puffy skirt, was helping her mother deliver cartons of milk to guests.

This was Margaret’s first year volunteering. She would have been too young to stay on task, her mother said.

Before coming to help at the meal, she was allowed to open one—and only one—present.

It was a baby doll that performs life-like functions when you give her water to drink (we’ll just leave it at that).

Margaret certainly believes in Santa, and although she didn’t specifically address any other beliefs, she seemed to understand it is important to help others.

In the end, The Gazette’s wildly unscientific pool showed 9 out of 10 people believed in Santa, with the 10th unwilling to publicly share her beliefs.

Most surveyed mentioned the true meaning of Christmas, and still others ignored the question altogether and talked instead about their family, their friends and their faith.


local • 3A, 6A

Developer’s efforts will go on

Edgerton real estate developer Dan Rinehart doesn’t understand why the city rejected his financial aid request for a proposed apartment building near downtown. But he says he’s still committed to projects that promote the downtown business district. “Obviously, I’m a little disappointed because we have good momentum in Edgerton and pulling people (into downtown), which coordinates directly to their master plan,” he said.

Seeking a safe ride home?

To ensure revelers get home safely, The Gazette has compiled a list of resources for sober driving across Rock and Walworth counties. Our look includes apps available for smartphones.

Streaming meetings stopped

The Milton School District has decided to suspend live streaming of school board meetings and other events because it can’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, school officials said Wednesday. The district’s current method of streaming does not have closed-caption capabilities for live videos, which allow people who are hearing impaired to read dialogue instead of listening to it. That’s a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Communications Supervisor Jerry Schuetz said.

state • 2A, 6A

Opinions don’t scare candidate

Typically, Supreme Court candidates shy away from making comments on legal and political issues, often saying conduct rules for judges and judicial candidates mean they can’t take stands on matters that could come before the court. Supreme Court candidate Tim Burns has chosen a much different path. He makes no bones about running as an unabashed progressive as he works toward a February primary.

Students learn about erosion

Students at a working farm and hands-on classroom in Wisconsin are learning about the benefits of stopping soil erosion. Northcentral Technical College’s Agriculture Center for Excellence is working with the National Corn Growers Association’s Soil Health Partnership to preserve and improve topsoil. The center is teaching farmers to practice no-till and cover-crop agriculture as ways to preserve root structure and stop erosion.

nation/world • 6B-7B

Individuals worry FBI most

Radicalized individuals, not teams of trained operatives, are the terrorist threats that most worry federal law enforcement agencies in the coming year. Stopping them is difficult because many give little advance indication they are planning attacks.

Vietnam escapes storm threat

Though hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta were evacuated as the region braced for the arrival of Typhoon Tembin after the storm left more than 160 people dead in the Philippines, the storm was downgraded Monday night to a tropical depression. Officials now say the storm will not make landfall in Vietnam and is expected to dissipate over the Gulf of Thailand today.