CHESTERTOWN - Rich Dwyer looked at his fellow Rotary Club members scurrying around the Chestertown Municipal Center last Saturday, readying for a visit by Santa.
A line of far more than 100 children and family members stretched through the hallway and out the back door.
"We've been doing this for the kids for nearly 40 years," he mused. "I can remember when we had this event outside at the Dynamite Hill woodpile and it was 20 below, and the adults would be freezing and the kids were fine."
Behind Dwyer was a crew of Chestertown Rotary Club members firing up computerized printers to provide families with free photos of their children with Santa.
Ready to go into acton taking pictures, printing them and assembling them in mats were Larry Hodgson, Bill Tierney, Jim Crawford, Artie Gangeri, John Grady and Shep Peck.
Jim Fregoe was arranging hand-wrapped gifts the group would present to children - trucks, robots and computer games, Slinky toys, dolls and stuffed bears. The gifts were bought with about $1,300 from the Rotarian funds, Club treasurer Bruce Hodgson said. The cost of the morning's event would total about $2,000, he added.
Helping wrap presents, decorate and prepare refreshments were Jon and Lynne Hagaman, Glen Vogel, Bill Wildermuth, George Stannard, Bob Kelso, Ed Belanger, Ron Gill, and others.
Dwyer looked at his watch and predicted the time of the jolly holiday man's arrival.
"Santa was about a half-hour late last year on the fire truck, and we told the kids it was the economy's fault - he couldn't afford oats for the reindeer and they were on strike," he quipped. "But this year, we sent out Judge Jim McDermott to get Santa, and he'll be on time, no question."
The hallway was now packed with children and their parents waiting with keen anticipation.
Meanwhile, Wayne Williams and Scott and Ruth Joseph of Faith Bible Church, sang Christmas carols with their acoustic guitars accompanying the traditional melodies.
Tammie LaGuerre stood halfway down the hallway, knowing it might by 45 minutes or so after Santa's arrival that her children Makayla, 6, and Kiana, 5,would get a few minutes with him.
"We've been coming here since my children were babies - they really look forward to it," she said.
Kelly Robbins, with her twins Tanner and Peyton, 6, was standing near the end of the line. She said it was worth the wait to see Santa, but they might be going upstairs in the meantime for cookie decorating in the town library, or take a hayride in a horse drawn wagon while the 100-or-so other children shared their Christmas wishes with Santa.
"We'll be doing lots of things here, including joining in with the Youth Commission's basketball sessions,' she said. "I have a hard time keeping up with the kids."
First to place her children in Santa's lap in Chestertown for 2010 was Brittany Bolton of Valentine Pond Road.
After her children Jacob, Reagan Harley and Riley revealed their Christmas wishes to Santa and Mrs. Claus, Brittany Bolton gazed at the festive duo.
"This has been a wonderful family tradition," she said. "They'll remember this their whole lifetime."