Santa visits downtown Bennington welcome center


Staff Writer

BENNINGTON - Santa Claus eschewed the traditional reindeer-drawn sleigh in favor of a Bennington firetruck during several local appearances over the weekend.

"It was a little bumpier (than the reindeer)," Santa reported. "A little rougher ride."

"We need snow for the reindeer," said Mrs. Claus, by her husband's side while he received children at the Better Bennington Corporation's downtown welcome center Saturday morning. The pair greeted about 40 children at the old blacksmith shop on South Street, and then they were off to see many more at the Bennington Museum later that afternoon. The stops coincided with this year's Hometown Holiday downtown event and the museum's opening day of its Festival of Trees exhibit.

In an exclusive interview with the Banner, Old Saint Nicholas demurred when asked about the naughty/nice ratio of children he had heard from, saying instead they usually fall somewhere in-between on the spectrum.

Most of the child imploring Santa for gifts were between the ages of 3 and 8. "The older kids, they say, 'no, no,'" said Santa, the teenagers declining to share their wish lists for fear of embarrassment. "But then one of them does it, and all the rest do it."

Diane St.Clair, administrative coordinator at the BBC, said this year's change in location for Santa's downtown stop had several advantages, not the least of which was the warm, indoor location. Visitors could also experience all the decorations hung inside the welcome center by volunteers.

A change in date meanwhile for the annual downtown holiday event (previously held in early December) better complemented other activities around town, St.Clair said, including Small Business Saturday incentives at stores and the museum's festival opening.

Typical of that opening, museum staff reported large crowds for Saturday's family day. More than 700 passed through the museum to view this year's community created vignettes, which featured the theme of holiday celebrations from around the world.

While the number of attendees was down, the crowds were still full according to Deana Mallory, director of public programs. Visitors are "spread out over the day, so it doesn't feel like 700 people (at once) ... Although sometimes it does feel like it," she said.

As part of the 16th annual Festival of Trees, the museum will be holding its Around the World Gala on Saturday, Dec. 8. That event includes a live auction benefiting the museum, although silent auction items are also available and were on display this weekend.

The festival's closing dance party is renamed "Afterglow" and scheduled for Friday, Dec. 21. Mallory said the new name was fitting given that the party will take place on the winter solstice.

The Festival of Trees, including both full-sized vignettes and Children's Forest, remains on display through the end of the year.

A tree lighting in Bennington is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 7 at 5 p.m. at the Vermont Veterans Home.

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