Santa makes his 41st annual visit to Openwood Plantation

Published 6:01 pm Sunday, December 10, 2017

The children lined up waiting began to jump and yell as the sirens echoed down the road heralding Santa Claus’s annual arrival in the Openwood Plantation.

Riding in a fire truck with a full escort of police cars and fire trucks, Santa made his 41st annual appearance in Openwood Sunday afternoon. The entourage made five stops throughout the neighborhood as Santa listened to the Christmas lists of more than 100 children, took a picture and gave each of them a candy cane.

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“This is our third or fourth year,” Kamaria Regan, who attended the event with three children, said. “We enjoy coming to see Santa. They enjoy what he gives. He is giving candy canes this year and in the past he has given free Frosty’s for a year. We enjoy telling him what we want.”

The event is hosted by the Openwood Plantation Garden Club, which begins planning the event in August.

“I call the North Pole to get on Santa’s calendar because he is busy this time of year,” Sylvia Gurtowski, Santa’s visit to Openwood coordinator, said. “I call in August to get on his calendar and then we coordinate with garden club and emergency management, the Culkin Volunteer Fire Department and the Sheriff’s Department.”

Santa and his escorts traveled down Oak Ridge Road before turning onto Newitt Vick Drive and making the first stop to meet the long line of waiting children and parents.

“I come with them so my reaction when we round that corner, I am always worried there’s not going to be any children standing here waiting for Santa,” Gurtowski said. “Then when we round that corner every year tears come to my eyes because there is always a line of kids. It is exciting and it brings out the kid in me.”

The annual visit has become a family tradition in the Openwood area as families return year after year to visit with Santa.

“It is right here and it is convenient. It is fun and exciting. The kids get into it. They really enjoy it and they come and stand in line for it,” Jennifer McAlpin, who attended with her daughter for the second year, said. “I think it is pretty big. You hear people talk about all the time them coming and their kids coming and coming back. Hopefully we will do it for several years.”

After stopping, Santa sat down in his chair, which is pulled behind his truck, and met with each of the gathered children.

“It was different, because I didn’t know this many people would come for one guy,” Amari Craft, 10, said. “I think it is nice because he comes way out for people who live farther away from the city.”