By MATT KOESTERS
NEW ALBANY —
Santa’s Weekend Workshop, a holiday event put on by the New Albany Parks and Recreation Department, entertained about 50 little helper elves at the Griffin Center in New Albany on Saturday.
Children began filing into the gym at the Griffin Center at about 10 a.m., greeted by parks employees and volunteers dressed in festive costumes to enjoy a variety of arts-and-crafts activities, games and snacks.
“What we wanted to do is provide a free activity to get the season started off with a smile,” said Kathy Wilkerson, recreation director with the parks department.
Christmas music played as children put together paper wreaths, enjoyed face painting and wrote letters to Santa Claus.
“I have made my bed without my mom telling me to,” Abrielle Richard, 7, wrote to the jolly old elf. Abrielle’s mother, Abbie Richard, also brought along Emma, 4, and Caleb, 5, to enjoy the festivities. Abbie Richard decided to bring the kids to the Griffin Center when Abrielle brought home from school a flyer promoting the event.
Of course, the most popular attraction of the day was Kris Kringle himself, flanked by Mrs. Claus in front of a stage decorated with Christmas trees.
The event gave kids the opportunity to write down their Christmas wish lists for Santa before sitting down to tell him about what they wanted to help the children prepare, Wilkerson said.
“Usually, you have to sit on Santa’s knee and you have to think of something,” Wilkerson explained. “Well, if you’re nervous and Santa kind of gives you the jitters, you can give it to Santa and he can look it over and check it twice, and maybe you might just get that.”
But Wilkerson made it clear to Santa when he arrived that he couldn’t make any promises to the children. “We’ll see,” was the best answer a child received.
It’s the first year the New Albany Parks and Recreation Department has hosted Santa’s Weekend Workshop, but it certainly won’t be the last, Wilkerson said.
“Everything we do, we try to evaluate it as we do it,” she said. “One thing I see right now, we should have had this at [noon] instead of 10 o’clock, simply because kids like to sleep late on Saturday. But we were thinking that if you do it early, it gives the parents the opportunity to do other things in the afternoon with their kids. But I’m very pleased with the turnout so far.”
New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan popped in to see how the event was going. He was pleased with the outcome, but would like to see even more residents show up for parks activities.
“This is a very special group of people that run this facility, and they’ve been doing it for a while and they get better and better all the time,” Gahan said. “We need to do a little bit better job of getting the word out on all of the special things that take place here, and we need to commit more time, effort and resources to promoting these types of things. There’s no question about it. [But] there’s a lot of people in there right now.”