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Community celebrates 64 years of tradition at Santa's Village

Nicole Stillings, daughter Kylie Kennell, dad Kyle Kennell and even their dog Max gathered together for a photo with Santa and Gumdrop the elf at Santa's Village in Bristol last weekend. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
December 12, 2018
BRISTOL – A 64-year old family tradition continued in fine stead this year as hundreds of children made their way to Tapply-Thompson Community Center last weekend for a visit to Santa's Village.

Inside the village they were greeted by elves, all of whom were busy working in the North Pole Post Office and the toyshop, or offering up samples of candies at the Sweet Shop or cookies at Mrs. Claus's Kitchen. In the midst of it all, the North Pole Train made its rounds and children of all ages enjoyed watching as conductors Doug Williams and his grandson Landon raced the trains around the mountain scenery.

"I started doing this in the early '70's," Williams said. "I took a hiatus while I was in college, but I've been doing it steadily every year since 1981."

The trains, he explained, actually belong to Santa. Every year, Williams goes up to the North Pole to borrow them though, then packs them all up and takes them back once Santa's Village is over.

Other scenes everyone admired included the Snow Flake Chapel, the beautiful Annalee Doll Shop and a delightful display of snowmen and reindeers, designed by Gina Richford and the TTCC Teen Council. And once everything had been oohed and ahhed over, all the good boys and girls lined up to wait for their turn with Santa.

Six-year-old Kiley Kennell of Holderness was one of those children, and her mom Nicole said they travel to Bristol every year to see Santa's Village. In fact, families from nearly every town in central New Hampshire seemed to find their way to Bristol over the weekend.

Downstairs on the main floor, adults shopped the many vendors for Christmas gifts and holiday decorations or enjoyed minestrone soup and other foods available for lunch.

TTCC's Executive Director Leslie Dion said there was a steady flow of families coming in and out of the center all weekend as everyone was enjoyed the new scenery and holiday excitement. She wished to thank those who volunteered their time to make the village a reality once again, especially those from J. Jill in Tilton who lend valuable assistance every year.

"They're awesome. I don't know where I'd be without them," Dion said. "There's a million little details in putting this on, but every year, it comes together."

AJ Coleman
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Varney Smith
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