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GBRC scores big with Express second round
A quartet of Great Bend High School freshmen join the Grinch in a line dance in between handing out Santa bags at Saturday's second annual Santa's Workshop Express event hosted by the Great Bend Recreation Commission.

Sometimes, the sequel turns out better than the premier.

Judging by the line of cars turning onto 18th Street after the noon hour, a fair amount of folks had heard about the second annual mobile express edition of Great Bend Recreation Commission’s Santa’s Workshop Saturday.

It was easy to spot the man in charge. Decked out in a two-foot faux-brick stovepipe hat with Santa’s legs sticking out the top, GBRC Enrichment Director Garet Fitzpatrick noted that they couldn’t have picked a better day for a short drive around the Activity Center’s block.  “It’s our second year of Santa’s Workshop Express, the drive-thru event,” Fitzpatrick said. “Look at the weather we have today; beautiful day.”

GBRC has hosted Santa’s Workshop in Great Bend for more than two decades at the Activity Center on 2715 18th St. In the past, the program encouraged children and their families to walk around to booths for food, craft activities and, of course, to share their wish list with Santa Claus. With last year’s pandemic restrictions threatening to cancel the event, however, organizers were forced to adjust to comply with social distancing parameters. The Express became their fun-friendly, COVID-19-acceptable solution.

“With the age we’re in right now, you know, safe environment, outside, it’s a great deal,” Fitzpatrick noted. “We have a wonderful support from the community; the EMS is here, police department, the Sheriff’s Department, helping out, handing out candy. It’s good for them and it helps us a lot. And as you drive through, you have all the high school students directing traffic and getting folks in line.”

The queue began shortly after one p.m., turning off Washington onto 17th, right on Adams and another right on 18th. Not everyone knew at the beginning, but with students in antlers or red elf caps at each intersection toting homemade arrows and signs, most drivers had it figured out by the time they got to the big blow-up Santa in front of the building.

The event was planned to last about an hour, or until supplies ran out. Last year was a good test run, but expectations ran higher the second time around, Fitzpatrick said. “Last year we gave out about roughly 480 bags and stuff, but this year we’ve doubled that,” he noted. “We’ve got antlers, Santa gift bags, cookies, about 750, we hope we’re safe.”

“We’re looking at this event like things change over time,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not just because of COVID, but you always want to keep things new, different and evolving. We hope that we can do something each year that people truly enjoy.

“That’s always our goal, to put on a great event for the community that they can participate in and have a good time.”