“I received calls all day,” said event organizer Cimone Simone, a member of the Pleasantville Envisions Pride and Prosperity Committee. “Parents were calling to register their children in the contest for the bikes. Groups were calling to sign up to perform.”
Unfortunately, some of the groups had to be turned away, Simone said.
“We were going to run out of time.”
Councilman Augustus Harmon, committee president, said the crowd, estimated at nearly a thousand adults and children, was almost four times more than expected.
Even Santa and Mrs. Claus put in overtime, Simone said.
“They were lined up three and four across waiting to see Santa and Mrs. Claus,” she said. “I wasn’t prepared for that.”
What is normally a two-hour event stretched close to 9 p.m. to afford time for the giveaways, allow extra groups to perform and give everyone a chance to talk to the event’s northern visitors.
The evening highlight was the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, who were escorted to the Winter Wonderland on top of a Pleasantville fire truck.
“To see all of those children’s eyes light up when Santa Claus appeared made it all worth it,” Simone said. “They all ran up and grabbed at his legs as he walked by.”
City merchants chipped in to fund the purchase of 16 bikes as giveaways, eight more than in 2011, Simone said.
“It makes me feel better knowing this event helped ease some of their burden,” Simone said of the area parents who are financially struggling and have a difficult time finding extra money for their children’s gifts.
The Winter Wonderland was sponsored by Reliance Medical Group and South Jersey Gas. Contributors were CME Associates, Traa Corporation (McDonald’s), Ye Old Washaus, Kerbeck Mitsubishi, Doran Engineering, Drs. Larry and Scott Duerman, TCM Acupuncture Center, Garden State Fuels, Mainland Dental Associates, Pleasantville City Council, Tech Auto Service, Digital Photos by Ray, Mayor Jesse Tweedle, Steinter Law Office, Pleasantville Education Foundation, Tech Automotive Services, Rich Fire Protection Co., Sam’s Club, Bayshore Rebar, Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, Sisters of Mercy Hospitaler, Taco Bell, Drs. Pritz & Gray Eyecare, Salem Missions.
Organizers and volunteers include city workers; members of the police, fire and public works departments; Councilman William Christmas and his wife, Maxine; the Pleasantville school system, the Recreation Department, Tara Esposito and Torrey Wilkerson, Neil Loch, and others in the community.
Other members of the Pride and Prosperity Committee are city administrator Linda Peyton, Davinna King, Charmaine Akins, Cynthia Stocks, recreation director Deborah L. Washington, Elizabeth Jetter-Green, Shirldine Spence-Steward, Kara Jeril, Irma Curry and LauDonia Richardson.
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