Sleigh bells sounded as the garage door at 103 Swett Road opened to reveal Santa Claus peering over square-rimmed glasses at the families arriving at Santa Land, 2014. Raising his arms and chanting “Ho. Ho. Ho.” through a curly white beard, he invited the children to come ahead and tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
Outside Santa’s garage was a seasonal wonderland of holiday music and bright light displays in the shapes of reindeer, candy canes, Santa and Mrs. Claus, Disney characters and Rudolph. Best of all, in the spirit of the season, the admission price to Santa Land was a donation to the Windham Food Pantry. Families arrived in numbers estimated at over 200, bearing gifts of canned goods, toiletries, clothing and toys.
Santa, seated comfortably in an ornate chair, thanked the families for their contributions and listened intently to the children’s requests. A boy, 4, asked for a game, an older girl wanted “a bunch of books,” and Brody, 3, still sleepy from the car ride said he wanted a train. Tory, 5, wearing a dark knit hat and pink mittens, wanted a fairy doll, while Mom and Dad, seeing an opening, stepped forward and asked for a car and a new motorcycle.
Three year old Jack whispered his wish to Santa, who nodded his consent. Next in line, a girl leaned toward Santa and exclaimed, “I just want Christmas.”
The two hour annual event, now in its 10th year, took place at the home of Sandy and Ron Wain in Windham. The event began again a conversation with her son, Dave. They were stringing outdoor holiday lights as she explained to him that the holidays were approaching and the local food pantry, where she was a volunteer, was low on supplies. With that brief conversation the idea for Santa Land was born and, in the spirit of giving, the garage door started going up every December to the sound of sleigh bells.