Black Friday may be the unofficial start of the holiday season for adults, but for children, a Santa sighting is much more exciting than a sale.
This was the second consecutive year that Santa has paid a visit to the Lend-A-Hand horse farm. Last year, about 30 children attended the event. On Saturday, more than 100 children came out to see Santa.
“It’s beautiful to see so many children enjoying themselves,” said Larry Moses, who owns and operates the facility with his wife Jessica.
Lend-A-Hand is a non-profit which provides therapeutic riding for children and adults with physical, mental, social and emotional disabilities.
Rather than arriving on a reindeer-drawn sleigh, Santa made his grand entrance in a Cranston fire truck.
“We appreciate the Cranston Fire Department escorting Santa here today,” Moses said. “We’re also thrilled to have the Santa from the Cardi’s Furniture commercials. He’s a fantastic Santa.”
Santa might have been the main attraction, but certainly not the only one. Children could take a guided ride on a pony or a horse around the riding arena, paint ornaments or decorate sugar cookies. While they waited in line for Santa, an entertainer made balloon animals.
“We’re very grateful for the private donations and the corporate sponsors that have made it possible for us to put on this event,” stated Moses.
Major sponsors included P.J. Keating, Ocean State Job Lot, Moses Brothers Insurance, CVS Caremark and Dunkin Donuts.
Santa Claus was also a huge hit at Garden City Center, where despite the unusually warm temperature, the area surrounding the gazebo was turned into a Winter Wonderland.
Santa’s visit has been an annual tradition at the Center since the shopping plaza opened in 1947. The beautiful weather attracted one of the largest crowds in recent memory.
Free rides around the Center were available by trolley, or the more festive means, horse-drawn hayride. At opposite ends of the quad, children could have their faces painted by Shirley Barboza or make birdfeeders.
Drawing the longest line, of course, was Santa Claus. Children not only had their picture taken with Saint Nick, but many read their hand-written wish lists to the jolly visitor from the North Pole.
Stationed in the gazebo, deejay David Maher played holiday music. Maher has worked the event for the last eight years.
A small fee was charged for refreshments and professional photos taken in the Santa tent. All proceeds were donated to the Rhode Island Food Bank.
The major sponsor of the event was CollegeBoundfund. The Learning Brooke, located in Cranston, provided the crafts.