Santa wedding

Santa and marriage commissioner Lee Milstead, who recently passed away, marries Briana Harrold and Daryl Hall in Fredericksburg on Dec. 14, 2018.

Today’s column deals with a handful of items, starting with an overdue but heartfelt tip of the hat to a man I wrote about late last year.

In December, I finally caught up with one of the area’s most dedicated Santa Clauses, Lee Milstead. The onetime member of the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors was getting married.

I heard from a friend several weeks back that Milstead, who was a professional photographer and owned a bridal business in his younger days, passed away.

It was sad news to hear—the loss of someone in our community who went out of his way to spread joy not just at Christmas, but all year long.

You see, Milstead didn’t just look like Santa by pulling on a wig and beard. Several years back, he decided his gray hair and beard could be grown out to make him look like Santa 365 days a year.

He was working as the Regal Cinemas promotions organizer at a special event at the Regal Fredericksburg theater last year when I ran into him, and it was clear then that he was fully devoted to spreading Christmas joy at parties, parades and even in private homes, if folks asked.

The neatest thing about Milstead, who was also a marriage commissioner in Spotsylvania, was that no one enjoyed the magic and excitement of Christmas more than him.

Whether it was his specially-decked-out truck—complete with a mailbox to Santa installed on the bumper—or the Santa suit outfitted with bells you could hear from blocks away, Milstead was committed to spreading joy to kids.

I’d met him years before the Santa story, when I was working on a column about the promotional work he did for Regal Cinemas that included building a life-sized model of the locomotive from “The Polar Express.”

It was one of many projects he did like that over the years, each one fueled by his childlike excitement for movies and the holidays.

And yes, his obituary started off with a “stardate,” as he was as big a “Star Trek” fan as you’d find anywhere.

Milstead was a special soul who was young at heart and brought joy to children not only at Christmas, but throughout the year. He will be missed.

Another sort of mortality played out in front of me on my way to work at our office in Central Park this morning.

A true gaggle of geese—five adults and 7 goslings—stopped traffic not far from the Regal Cinemas as they slowly meandered across the road to get to the wetland area on the other side.

At least they meandered for a moment, until four of the goslings decided to peck away at each other in the middle of the road.

All progress across the road stopped as all the other geese, young and old, stopped to watch the youngsters spin about and peck at each other with their little beaks.

Thank goodness the drivers all just waited for the scene to play out, or it could have been a real geese-induced Armageddon.

It’s one thing to expect folks to stop when geese scoot on across the road, as it’s a fairly common sight in the Central Park shopping area. But it’s something beyond that to make drivers wait 5 minutes or more as the young goslings stop and have a good wrestle.

Give motorists credit for being watchful enough to help these little geese grow to become adults, though something tells me they don’t all make it. Cars and goslings don’t really mix.

Finally, if you’re a fan of brews, barbecued ribs and live music, consider taking in the “Ribs and Brews Fest” from 4–10 p.m. Saturday in the town of Orange. It all happens next to the train station that serves as the Orange County Visitor Center, at 122 E. Main St.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Orange Downtown Alliance event, which has brought some great food, beer and music to Orange.

Bands performing include Apple Butter Soul Band and Billy and the Back Beats.

For more information on it and other evenings of music this summer in Orange, go online to

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Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415

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