For the 23rd consecutive year, the Great Bend City Auditorium was transformed into Santa’s Workshop Monday night. The annual gathering is a chance for children from preschool through 6th grade and their families to visit Santa Claus, play games, enjoy treats and craft gifts. For many, it has become a much anticipated event for the winter holiday season.
“Santa’s Workshop was actually inspired by a conversation with a Great Bend High School student who worked here at the Rec,” Diann Henderson, director of the Great Bend Rec Commission said. A member of a student leadership program at the school, the student brainstormed with Henderson about ideas for creating a new community event for kids. For many GBHS alumni, volunteering for Santa’s Workshop each year is a fond memory, Henderson said.
Members of Great Bend High School clubs and area organizations turn out for the event each year, helping to create order amongst the chaos of happy children excited for the season. They manned the games and craft tables where kids made assorted ornaments, door hangers, decorated bags and EEKs (pencil decorations made from glittery pipe cleaners and pompoms). In the two weeks leading up to the event, some helped with paining and hot-gluing components of the crafts in advance.
“The goal is for kids to be able to complete a short and sweet craft without having to spend a lot of time at any one station,” Garet Fitzpatrick, Rec program coordinator said. “We don’t want them to have to spend a long time standing in lines.”
There was no shortage of cameras on hand as parents captured memories of their children’s experiences in the moment, as well as posed photos with Santa.
Barton Community College students were at the auditorium earlier in the week to help with preparations leading up to the event, and Rec staff helped set up the tables and decorations Monday afternoon. In addition to crafts, kids made Magic Reindeer Chow, decorated snowman cookies, and played reindeer ring toss and snowball toss. A fishing pond was set up where kids could “fish” for stuffed animals. With nearly 800 toys and over 700 cookies, there were no worries of running out. Ana Hayson from Rana Luna Boutique was on hand to tie balloons for children too.
Musical entertainment this year was provided by Great Bend Middle School’s Jazz Band and String Rhapsody group.
“Without the high school students and community support, this event wouldn’t be possible,” Fitzpatrick said.
Goodies, give-aways and crafting supplies were made possible by donations from area businesses.