After more than 30 years appearing in the Gazebo on the Circle, Santa’s popularity is still going strong. The durable Santa Claus, a close friend of Terry Parke, can’t even guess how many children have sat on his lap over the years, plus dogs. And he has been peed on by both.
As always, Santa arrived on the Circle last Saturday evening, Dec. 14 in a Miami-Dade fire truck and climbed down to the delight of a horde of children and adults. The line for pictures with Santa stretched from the Gazebo to the Circle and beyond.
This year, to try to gauge how many children would show up and to control the crowd, free bracelets were made available for Miami Springs and Virginia Gardens children under age 6. Bracelets for older local children were $2 and non-residents paid $10.
“We sold 600 bracelets in advance,” said Patti Bradley, Community Center events coordinator, “and another 100 tonight. You have to triple that number because of the parents.”
Both of Bradley’s daughters were elves when they were in high school and now they are both mothers and at an age where they don’t want to disclose it.
Bradley and her rec center staff of 20 organized and oversaw Christmas activities on the Circle that included train rides, food booths, bounce house, Santa photos, entertainment and a snow pile, which was extremely popular.
“We come every year,” said Natalie Escanaverino, who was waiting in line with her children, Gianna, 5, and Gina, 9. “They’re getting sweaty before having their picture taken but we enjoy it.”
Grandmother Marlene Jimenez brought her four grandchildren, ages 11, 9, 9 (not twins, different parents) and 6. “We do this every year,” said Jimenez. “We all live in the Springs and have a great time here at Christmas.”
Twins Carolina and Catherina Sauer, 20, were at the Gazebo with Catherina’s son, John Connor, age 2. “We’ve been coming here (with mom, Yolanda Sauer) since we were babies,” said Carolina. “We still have our picture taken sitting on Santa’s lap. It’s a tradition.”
Maria Puentes waited patiently in line with her 6-month-old daughter. “She’s not going to scream,” said Puentes. “She’s going to do well. I used to come with my other daughter, who is now 13. But she’s a teenager, so she won’t come for a photo with Santa.”
Puentes’ brother, Heli Hernandez, was there with his three children, ages 8, 6 and 5. “They’re in the bounce house while we wait in line,” he said.
After having had hundreds of children sit on his lap, a perspiring Santa was still jolly and enjoying the event. He said, “It’s a great night. I haven’t been peed on so far.”