Santa helps efforts to save Verbena gazebo

Published 3:39 pm Monday, November 27, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Verbena residents worked to spread some Christmas cheer while raising funds to save a community gazebo through Photos with Santa on Nov. 26.

“That gazebo is a landmark for us,” Mary Kate Weir of Verbena said. “We are trying to save a landmark … It is one of the signature buildings of our community.”

Verbena’s gazebo was built in 1985 by men in the community and is in need of some repairs. She said the gazebo has been the site for many commemorative photos for students, couples and other community members. However, the Santa photos were taken on the porch of Weir’s 1875 historic house.

The event raised $380.

For a donation of $5, children and families could get their pictures taken with Santa Claus and his elves.

“People walking up and giving us $20 was just really common,” Weir said. “Everybody had such a good time. The children were able to go up as many times as they wanted to, and the parents were able to go up with them.”

Santa, portrayed by Judson Messer, donated his time to the event and invited the 2017 Chilton County Peach Queens to join him. Dressed as elves in green and red, the Peach Queens helped children get seated on Santa’s knee for each photo and calmed those who were a bit frightened for their first picture with Santa. Weir said she was very thankful for them volunteering. Taylor Kohn and Valerie Speaks were the event’s photographers.

Hot chocolate and cookies added to the festive mood.

Fundraising efforts for the gazebo began with a GoFundMe account. More than $300 was raised through the account. Some of the funds were used to buy items for the Santa fundraiser.

For the past 32 years, the gazebo has sat at its current location, which is actually private property. This year, the location agreement ended. Possibilities are being explored, but a group of community members have become concerned that the structure may have to be moved. Weir hopes an agreement can be reached for the gazebo to stay where it is, but, if not, she is willing to provide a place for the gazebo.

“If we have to move that gazebo, I am willing to move it to my property where it can be seen as you top the hill coming into Verbena,” Weir said.

Weir’s property is across the street from the gazebo’s current location.

The goal is to keep the structure available to the public. If the gazebo does have to be moved, funds raised would go toward this and the group hopes to have enough funding to complete the project.

Donations can be made on GoFundMe by searching for “Save the Verbena Al Historic Gazebo” or by mail to Weir at 101 County Road 510, Verbena, AL 36091. Checks should be made payable to Mary Kate Weir with Verbena Gazebo Fund in the memo line. She is establishing a bank account for the group. For more information, contact Weir at

The organizing team plans to have the community event again next year.