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Old St. Nick sets up shop

Krystle Wagner • Dec 12, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Despite the smiles on her siblings’ faces, 19-month-old Mia Chapel cried when her picture was taken with Santa.

Mia warmed up to seeing Old St. Nick as her family had cookies and hot chocolate after their visit to the Tri-Cities Kiwanis’ Santa House on Monday evening.

The Jolly Elf has returned to his Grand Haven home, nestled between Jumpin’ Java and Fifth Third Bank, in downtown Grand Haven. The Santa House continues 6-8 p.m. today through Friday, Dec. 15; 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16; 6-8 p.m. Dec. 19-22; and 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Dec. 23.

While there isn’t a charge to visit with Santa, families can make donations for pictures.

Last year, more than 700 children visited the Santa House.

The interactions with children are among the most enjoyable aspects of bringing Santa to life, said Bob Swanson, who is commonly known as Mr. Z.

“It’s magical,” he said.

Swanson, a former Ferry Elementary School teacher, said he also enjoys telling Santa jokes as families visit.

Although some children start out scared or frightened by Santa, Connie Farell, who plays Mrs. Claus, said they often get to know Santa and end their visit with smiles. Farell said she enjoys visiting with the children and families, especially since she doesn’t have family members nearby.

“This is my Christmas,” she said.

When Santa asked children what they want for Christmas, Madison Chapel, a Grand Haven High School student, said she would like a healthy 2018.

On the top of 10-year-old Jager Lankamp’s list — who said visiting Santa was “pretty cool” — is a Polaris Side-by-Side off-road vehicle.

Being able to see the Elf from the North Pole made 5-year-old Joslyn Lankamp happy. Joslyn said she asked Santa for a doll.

Kenady Lankamp, 6, asked Santa for a Hatchimal, because it starts as an egg but hatches into a bird, the girl explained.

“It’s cool,” she said.

Both Kenady and Joslyn agreed that the best part of Christmas is getting presents.

Matthew Chapel, 15, said he likes having the Santa House in the community as a place where children can visit St. Nick. Matthew said he most enjoys the spirit of Christmas and seeing children believe in Santa.

“It’s all really cool,” he added.

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