Santa Claus had a busy Saturday in Portage County as he made his rounds through Kent, Ravenna and Rootstown and heard what's on children's wish lists this year.
Kent's Festival of Lights, the annual event welcoming Santa to town as he arrives via train, drew a crowd encompassing Hometown Plaza at Water and Main streets, the gazebo on Franklin and overflow onto the Main Street Bridge.
In Ravenna, Santa arrived on a fire truck for the Balloon A-Fair's annual lighted Christmas Parade, "Candy Canes & Christmas Carols." The parade made its way down Main Street with themed floats, dancing and marching groups, with the Ravenna High School Band leading it all off.
Santa also appeared in Rootstown arriving at the First Congregational Church of Rootstown on a fire truck, after the annual tree lighting ceremony.
The Kent Area Chamber of Commerce expanded the Festival of Lights with a large blow-up screen showing children's holiday movies, shut down the Main Street Bridge to traffic and let Santa sit in the gazebo as he greeted the kids.
"We wanted to make sure that this year's Festival of Lights was bigger and better, and I think we did it," said Lori Wemhoff, KACC director, adding that it was a "Winter wonderland without the snow."
Wemhoff said the chamber had a lot of help to pull of the event.
The Kent Junior Mothers served up hot chocolate, cookies and helped with letters to Santa. The Roosevelt ACEs choir, directed by Corey Fowler, sang carols before Santa arrived. The Stanton Middle School and Kent Theodore Roosevelt High School boys basketball teams lended their hands to help set up and pass out hot chocolate. The Roosevelt Key Club donated stuffed animals to pass out and employees of Kent's Parks and Recreation, Service and Budget and Finance departments volunteered all day.
"Honestly, we just love doing this," Wemhoff said. "This is one of the best events we do as a chamber."
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