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Santa and Mrs. Claus visit fans in Greenville

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

Santa and Mrs. Claus visited with some of their biggest fans in Greenville on the day after Thanksgiving. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

GREENVILLE — Santa and Mrs. Claus visited with some of their biggest fans in Greenville.

Traditionally held on the day after Thanksgiving, the Jolly Ol’ Elf’s visit — with the Mrs. — is hosted each year by the Greenville Rotary Club.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived at the gazebo in Veterans’ Memorial Park with the help of their firefighter friends from the Greenville Volunteer Fire Company, who drove the holiday couple in a fire truck with sirens blazing.

After greeting children at the gazebo, singing “Jingle Bells” with the crowd and leading the lighting of the dozens of Christmas trees in the park, the Clauses led kids to nearby Prevost Hall for cookies, photos and raffles for gifts.

“This is their first time here. We are visiting family,” Sandra Cioffi said of her two kids. “They are very excited to see Santa. They have been here to Greenville many times, but we didn’t know this was happening until we got here — the kids are very excited.”

The children’s aunt, local resident Barbara Walter, is a member of Community Partners of Greenville, which is spearheading the renovations of the historic Prevost Hall, where visits with Santa took place. The event was traditionally held at Prevost Hall years ago, but with the renovations and recent reopening of the building, this was the first time Santa made his visit to Prevost Hall in some time.

“We have had other events here in Prevost Hall recently, such as concerts on rainy days during the summer and the Studio Art Tour, where we had art on the walls, but this is the first time we have had an event here in the building with kids in a long time,” Walter said. “It’s great to see them coming here and enjoying Prevost Hall.”

Santa led the tree lighting ceremony with a booming “Light ’em up!” after singing “Jingle Bells with the kids. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

The visit with Santa and tree lighting ceremony are hosted each year by the Greenville Rotary Club.

“It’s been a couple of years since we held this in Prevost Hall,” said Rotarian Deb Smith. “Last year we did it outside — it was freezing — and the year before we didn’t have it at all because of COVID, so this is the first time in this building in years.”

Some 35 free raffle tickets were given out to kids at the start of the program, but no child went away empty handed.

“We have a gift for every single child,” Smith said. “We are also giving out a boys’ bike and a girls’ bike. We have 10 gifts for the raffles, and besides that every child will get a small toy to take home and a candy cane.”

The reason for holding the event each year was evident just by looking around the room, Smith said, pointing to a happy child.

“How could you not want to do this every year?” she said. “Look at these kids — look at these faces — how could you not want to do this every year?”

The Bell family poses with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media

Rotarian Eileen Cuffe said seeing the happy faces made all the preparation and work worthwhile.

“I love the kids, I love Christmas and just seeing everybody so happy makes my day,” Cuffe said.

Hazel and Thatcher Welty were among the kids who visited with the Clauses and had their photo taken.

“Hazel has been here before but for Thatcher, it’s his first time,” mom Elizabeth Welty said. “She was very excited to come — a little nervous, but she was excited. It’s been a while.”

High schoolers from the Interact Club served as Santa’s helpers during the event. Pictured, left to right, are Nick Lucci and Connor Mullen

Greeting the kids and handing out gifts were several high school students from the Interact Club, which is similar to a junior Rotary. Connor Mullen and Nick Lucci made their first appearance as elves helping out Santa.

“This is our first year doing this,” Mullen said. “We are currently in the Interact Club at the school and this is how we got to do this. It’s community service for the club.”

Dad Derek Bell said his four kids really enjoyed the event.

“They are very excited. They enjoy Santa every year,” Bell said. “An event like this strengthens the vibe of a small town. It keeps everybody close and in touch, which is what we want.”

The event was hosted at Prevost Hall for the first time in several years. Melanie Lekocevic/Capital Region Independent Media
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