GIFT EXCHANGE — After asking for a drum for Christmas, Arianna Howe, 9, presents Santa and Mrs. Claus with gifts — a tie for the big elf and a snowman for his wife — while Santa’s better half hands a present to the generous girl. About 300 children attended Santa’s visit Saturday in Chestertown. The holiday event has been sponsored for 40 years by the Chestertown Rotary Club.
Becky and Jim Tucci stood at the end of a long line in the Chester Municipal Center, waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus. Their children — Isabella, 5,Gianna, 3, and Nico, 2, had their hands full — they were holding greeting cards they created to give to the jolly man whose generosity is legendary.
Becky Tucci looked at their excited expressions and smiled.
“The Chestertown Santa is better than the mall Santa, because he’s so much more personable,” she said.
Santa’s visit to Chestertown, a premier seasonal event in northern Warren County, is sponsored by Chestertown Rotary Club. This year was the Rotarian’s 40th edition of the ever-popular event.
The visit is considered unique in the North Country, because it features the presentation of a valuable gift, whether it’s a doll, model truck, robot, computer game, puzzle or educational toy.
Gazing at the lengthy lineup of excited children, Rotarian Rich Dwyer of Chestertown offered his thoughts.
“Families come from all over — North Creek, Schroon Lake, or wherever,” he said. “When we hand out presents to these kids, I love to see their faces, it’s fantastic,” Dwyer said. “And for some of them, this will be all they’ll get for Christmas — and we’re happy to help out.”
Waiting in the hallway was Brenda Prosser of Pottersville, who brought her daughters Jolene and Loretta, her niece, her mother-in-law and grandchildren.
“This is something really special for the family to do together,” she said.
Meanwhile, Wayne Williams and Scott and Ruth Joseph and Wayne Williams of Adirondack Gospel Trio, performed traditional Christmas carols — Ruth on Violin, Scott on Guitar, Mandolin and Banjo, and Wayne on Guitar and French Horn, with all three contributing vocals..
Outside, Chris Boggia of Circle B Ranch conducted hayrides in his horse-drawn wagon.
Taking pictures of children with Santa, printing the photos and assembling them in mats for hours Saturday were Rotarians Bob Case, Artie Gangeri, John Hagmann, Al Muench, Jim Fregoe, David Schlansker, and Larry Hodgson, among others. The latter two were the primary photographers. In the holiday spirit, Fregoe sported elf slippers and a joker’s hat.
Hand-wrapping the presents this year, were Nancy Fregoe, Pat Vogel, Dawn Fregoe and Maureen Dwyer, among others.
Arianna Howe, 9, had a surprise for Santa when she sat on his lap and asked for a drum for Christmas. She presented Santa and Mrs. Claus with gifts — a tie for the big elf and a snowman for his patient wife.
After the rare gift exchange, Arianna headed into the hallway to listen to acoustic Christmas music.
“They’re always getting stuff for me, so it’s time I gave them something back,” she said.
Arianna passed by Kristy Mills, who was watching her son Joey, 3, open a gift from Santa of a toy car carrier.
As the youngster reacted with joy, Mills smiled.
“This is so great, to bring the community together, and provide this for the kids at no cost,” she said. “It gets the kids excited and into the holiday spirit before Christmas.”