Long lines of children of all ages eyed brightly wrapped gifts piled on three tables while they waited their turn to talk to Santa Claus Saturday morning at Breakfast With Santa in Leadington.
Families crowded the main hall of the Mineral Area Memorial VFW Post 5741. They filled tables while they enjoyed the free pancake and sausage breakfast offered by the Post and its Auxiliary. Children who already had received an apple, orange, and their presents tore open wrapping paper to see what Santa had given them.
The event is sponsored by the Mineral Area Memorial VFW Post 5741 and its Auxiliary, the Leadington Police Department and the city of Leadington, VFW member Joe Briley said.
“I love this,” said Stacy Dischbein, who attended the event with her husband, Billy, and their three children, Dustin, Aaron and Jacee. “The gifts put a smile on their faces, and they get to spend time with their family, including their cousins.”
Dustin grinned as he unwrapped pirate gear, while Aaron and Jacee discovered they had received hand games.
Briley smiled as he looked across the crowded and noisy hall.
“This it the biggest turnout we’ve ever had,” he said.
The event was free, including the photos of children and Santa. Bingo receipts from throughout the year pay for the event, Auxiliary member Joyce Byrd said.
“We bought and wrapped 1,057 gifts,” she noted. “That’s what Bingo is for.”
Last year, 584 people attended. This year, the Post and Auxiliary sent fliers about the event to area schools. Commander Leamon W. Asher Sr. estimated that at least 1,000 would attend Saturday’s event.
To prepare for the onslaught, VFW veterans and members of the Auxiliary started cooking at 6 a.m.
Within a half hour of the 8 a.m. opening, all the food prepared in the first two hours was gone. Undaunted, men said they would cook until the 11 a.m. closing if needed.
Planning breakfast for the event required large amounts of food.
“We had 130 pounds of flour, 2,045 sausage links, 14 cases of apples and 14 cases of oranges,” said Wayne Byrd.
Prairie Farms donated cases of milk and orange juice.
As the lines stretched outside, 1-year-old Jayden Hampton and her 2-year-old aunt, Savannah Hampton, waited in red velvet dresses for their turn with Santa. Savannah appeared a bit overwhelmed, but Jayden hammed it up for the camera and played on the table top.
This was the 15th year for the event, Byrd said.
Paula Barr is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 172 or at email@example.com.