Unseasonably warm weather made it easy for Santa and Mrs. Claus to make their way over to the Great Bend City Auditorium Monday evening for the 16th Annual Santa’s Workshop sponsored by student organizations at Great Bend High School.
“This is a great opportunity for the students to give back to the community,” said Great Bend Recreation Commission director Diane Henderson. She remembers the first Santa’s Workshop in 1996. A student, Tara Steffan, who worked as an after school instructor at the recreation center, returned from a leadership camp with a community project idea. Santa’s Workshop was born, and has become a Great Bend tradition. Last year, over 1,200 individuals attended the event, and this year, Henderson anticipated an even larger turnout in part because of good weather.
Prior to the evening’s festivities, volunteers from several GBHS clubs worked to prepare craft materials so activities would run smoothly Monday night. Barton Community College students were on hand Monday afternoon to set up tables and booths, and more high school volunteers arrived late afternoon to prepare for the opening at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, volunteers from Parents as Teachers, Sunflower Early Education Center, and Incredible Years Preschool gathered at the Burnside room to prepare simpler activities and craft projects for preschool aged children who weren’t ready for the excitement in the gymnasium. While older children fed off the excitement of the main event, some preschoolers made ornaments from pinecones, glue and glitter, while others made reindeer food from oatmeal and glitter om relative peace and quiet.
School groups also provided entertainment. The Great Bend Middle School Jazz band performed, and the El Sol Mexican Folk Dancers wowed the crowd with their lively and festive folk dancing numbers. This is the 20th year El Sol, a folk dancing club made up of GBHS students, has been performing. The group performed three traditional Mexican dances, followed by a song, “Feliz Navidad”.
Several community businesses donated candy, craft supplies and handouts, as well as manpower and cash. Costumed characters, including the Grinch, made appearances, but probably the most sought after of all was jolly old St. Nick himself, who did what he does best. He greeted children and offered an attentive ear as they shared their wish lists for Christmas 2012, offering a hopeful smile and wishing them well as they gave up their seat for the next lucky kid in line.