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SantaLand brings out families for holiday fun

Emma Ciasulli and her mom Elia Ciasulli meet some special friends during SantaLand. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
December 09, 2021
SantaLand was back this year at the Gilford Youth Center, bringing out families to enjoy an array of fun activities in one place.

The free annual event, hosted by the GYC and the Gilford Parks and Recreation Department, ran Friday night and Saturday morning. The GYC gym was turned into a holiday wonderland with crafts, games, food, a bouncy house, and so much more.

The event was canceled last year because of the pandemic. GYC director Scott Hodsdon said the event is a holiday tradition for many families and not being able to have it was hard.

He said since the Holiday Craft Fair was going on at Gilford High School the organizers of SantaLand decided it was a good time to bring back the event as well.

"We're very happy and fortunate to be able to do it this year," Hodsdon said.

SantaLand featured a variety of different activities for kids and their families. Kids could play different games in Reindeer Games, decorate cookies, take part in Frosty's Race Course on little scooters, slide down a big bouncy slide, spend time in the bouncy house, do some "snowball fighting" with cloth balls, ornament making. Letters to Santa, and many more activities. Plenty of food was available for sale from mac and cheese to a cookie walk.

New this year was the snowball fight and a smaller slide for little kids was added on addition to the big slide.

Kids could also get their pictures taken with Santa. Kids would have their names called and gather for a story before getting to meet the man in red. Kids could also meet with some popular characters like Mickey, Minnie, and Olaf.

Hodsdon and Parks and Rec director Herb Greene said the crowd was a bit lighter on Friday than usual, though that wasn't unusual considering the times.

"It's great to be back," Greene said.

Hodsdon and Greene said both groups have a great partnership.

"Any time we can partner with Parks and Rec, it makes our event better," Hodsdon said.

Crews from both the GYC and Parks and Rec helped set up the event in the gym during the week and helped out with the activities during the event along with several Gilford students and many other community volunteers.

Emma Ciasulli, who's 18 months old, got the chance to meet Mickey and Mini, play some games, and so many more activities.

Her mom Elia Ciasulli said they recently moved to Gilford from New York City.

"We love it," Elia said. "We are originally from New York City and this is the best SantaLand and holiday party. We are glad the people of Gilford have been so welcoming to new homeowners like us."

Everly Yost, age 2-and-a-half, and 3-year-old Ellie Santone did the present stacking game and their parents said they also loved the bouncy house, cookie decorating, and meeting Santa.

Everly's mom Brittany Yost said they've come to SantaLand in previous years and was great to be back this year.

"It's so nice, everyone's so happy," Brittany said. "It's a real highlight for the kids."

Ellie's mom Barbara Santone said this was their first year and they came after hearing about it through the school.

"I love it; this is fun," Barbara said.

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