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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

First Santa’s Village turns Essex Centre into Christmas destination

by Sylene Argent

The first annual Santa’s Village transformed the Heritage Gardens Park in Essex Centre into a holiday destination on Saturday, thanks to a group of volunteers who brought the vision of a winter wonderland to life.

With 32 vendors, a petting zoo, an ice sculptor carving a snowman creation, a performance from the Essex Community Concert Band, a virtual reality trailer, a myriad of youth activities, and the opportunity to take pictures with Old St. Nick, Santa’s Village attracted a steady flow of visitors, curious and excited to experience all it offered.

Santa’s Village officially opened at 3pm, well ahead of the kick-off for the annual Essex Centre BIA Santa Claus Parade, and continued after the procession of marching bands, festive floats, and individuals dressed in holiday-themed costumes concluded.

Rich Tapping, one of the event organizers, was pleased to see everything come together and was grateful to the many volunteers, sponsors, and community members who came out to enjoy the event.

“It was incredible,” he said, reflecting on the event highlights. “Katie McGuire-Blais [another organizer] and I were standing together and watching as people just kept coming in.”

He said he was not sure what to expect as far as turnout, but was pleased to see the flow of curious individuals was steady throughout the evening, so much so, he was told some of the merchants and vendors ran out of product.

“Everyone was happy,” he said. “I was happy to see everyone coming together.”

Members of the small organizing committee will now get together and compare notes to see what worked and what can be improved, Tapping said. He added it is hoped the community will embrace the event so it can continue on and even grow, which will require more individuals to come forward to volunteer. In addition, he hopes it can become an official Town of Essex event.

Tapping originally came up with the idea for the event as he loves Christmas and wanted to see Essex become a holiday destination. After the Essex Fun Fest was hosted this year, for which he is also a committee member, he posted a survey asking residents if they would like to see a holiday-themed event, and the response was overwhelming.

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