It’s more than 37,000 miles from the North Pole to Fort Benning, but St. Nick will be making the journey in time to arrive for Fort Benning’s signature holiday event — Santa at Riverside.
The festivities, including pictures with Santa Claus, entertainment and refreshments, are from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Riverside.
“It’s a great opportunity for everyone here on Fort Benning,” said Amber Sage, marketing assistant with the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. “It’s really just a special time for everybody to get together, spend time together as a big Army family and ring in the holiday. We are planning for around 2,000 people ... and we hope they all come out.”
Everything — from the hot chocolate to the cookies — is free. While they wait for their turn with Santa, families can enjoy face painting and performances by a stilt walker and juggler.
“We have some really great door prizes for the children,” said Stacy Harding, assistant director for Youth Sports and Fitness. “They can win a bike, an iPod, some learning toys, a Nintendo DS, a DVD player and many other great prizes.
Hosted by Child, Youth & School Services, the yuletide event has been a tradition for several years, Harding said.
Another tradition is Santa’s transportation to the home of the commanding general. “When I visit Riverside, I arrive in style — riding on a fire truck,” said Santa in an interview via Skype earlier this week.
Santa said he enjoys making his grand entrance with the help of the Fort Benning Fire Department, especially since the truck is his favorite color.
“I’m bringing a few of my elves — those who were able to get away from the workshop during this busy time of year, that is — to help me share Christmas cheer with all the Fort Benning children,” he said. “And I have a goodie bag for every girl and boy who has been nice this year instead of naughty.”
So parents can remember the occasion, a professional photographer will be on site to capture the meetings between St. Nick and youngsters of all ages. The pictures will be available for free download from the DFMWR website, www.benningmwr.com, following the event.
For more information about Santa at Riverside, call 706-545-3582.