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Santa hears requests from his young guests at Arbutus visit

Busy night at Santa House in Arbutus

"What do you want for Christmas this year?" Santa Claus asked the dozens of young visitors who stopped by to see him Friday night at the Santa House in Arbutus.

While many of the responses on Dec. 19 ranged from electronics to toys from recent movies, some of the classics were also among the answers Santa received as he began his last weekend of hearing requests before beginning his long night on Dec. 24.

The question was one guests such as Karina House, 4, couldn't wait to answer.

Once the Arbutus resident had established that she had, indeed, been a good girl this year, she asked for a baby doll.

After taking note of Katrina's request, Santa asked her to leave plenty of cookies and chocolate milk for him, along with carrots and ranch dressing for the reindeer.

"They go down easier that way," Santa said of ranch dressing request.

The Santa House at 1348 Stevens Ave., between the Ice Cream Cottage and Arbutus Town Hall, opened on Nov. 29 during the annual welcome to Arbutus event for Santa that marked the local start of the holiday season. It was open from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in December, in addition to special evening hours on Monday, Dec. 22, and Tuesday, Dec 23.

By Friday, more than 600 children, and some adults, had sat on Santa's lap, according to Santa House volunteer Karen Walk.

Walk, who lives in Arbutus and has volunteered at the Santa House for 15 years, smiled as each child entered the house, which was also decorated with a Christmas tree surrounded by a train set.

Requests for toys from the popular Disney movie "Frozen" were the most popular this year, Walk said.

The Santa House has been provided free to the community by the Arbutus Business and Professional Association since 2007, said Jeff Utzinger, who organizes the event.

In addition to the opportunity to deliver requests in person, each child receives a goodie bag with crayons, a coloring book and a candy cane, Utzinger said.

Photographs are also offered, though there is a charge, or parents can take their own photos if they prefer, he said.

Kendall Roberts, 8, a student at Arbutus Elementary, told Santa he should know what she wants because her mother, Kristen Roberts, had already texted him part of her list.

"Can you do me a favor and finish up the rest of your list, so your mom can text me the rest of it?" Santa asked in a jolly voice.

For 18-month-old Lila Mitchell, who traveled from Laurel with her parents, Tara and Matthew Mitchell, to sit on Santa's lap for the first time, it was all a little overwhelming.

When it came down to it, she didn't even sit on Santa's lap, nor did she tell Santa what she wanted for Christmas.

She did, however, accept a peppermint candy cane and her parents expect she will be ready to deliver her Christmas requests next year.

"It's close to bedtime," Tara Mitchell said.

Both parents agreed the trip up Interstate 95 was worth it for the personal touch the setting provided.

"It wasn't like going to the mall — it wasn't commercial," Matthew Mitchell said. "It's a little more quaint."

Nevaeh Townsend, 3, wore a pink tutu as she stopped in to ask Santa Claus for a cow, a unicorn, a Barbie doll and everything from the Disney movie, "Frozen."

"This is the first year she didn't freak out," said her guardian, Felicia Minkey, of Arbutus.

The two were accompanied by Minkey's daughter, McKenna, 15, who attends Towson High, and Deb "Aunt Deb" Youngblood, of Linthicum.

"It's fun and she's smiling, so she seems to like it," McKenna Minkey said.

A relaxed Marvin Robinson, 10, chatted with Santa while the other children in the line outside peered through the house's window to catch a glimpse of its popular host.

"You dress to impress Marvin. What do you want for Christmas?" Santa said, admiring Marvin's green glasses that matched his green vest.

Marvin said he wanted a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Marvin made the trip from Gwynn Oak along with his brother, Vaughn Joachim, 2, his mother, Danielle Liason, his aunt, Keyonna Sutton, and cousins Aubri Wilson, 6, and Auriona Wilson, 7.

"He told me two days ago he didn't believe in Santa Claus," Danielle Liason said. "But I think this visit helped him believe."

The children promised they would write letters to Santa Claus, and leave him chocolate chip cookies when he visits on Christmas Eve.

Andrew Godleski, 8, a student at Westowne Elementary School in Catonsville, was joined by his mother, Gina Godleski, and grandfather, Bernard Hasty.

He asked for an iPod Touch 5.

"And you want socks and underwear too. Your favorite stuff, right?" Santa said with a hearty laugh, as Mrs. Claus and a nearby elf grinned.

Andrew said he doesn't want socks or underwear, but then he added Legos to the list.

For some, visiting Santa Claus is a family tradition that doesn't end with childhood.

Joyce Young entered the Santa House with her daughters, Kimberly Young, 30, and Rebecca Young, 21, and Kimberly's twin daughters, Demi and Aeris Jackson, 2, and their older sister, Maddy Jackson.

It wasn't just the children who sat on Santa's lap to talk about what they hoped to find under the tree on Christmas morning.

Kimberly and Rebecca also sat on Santa's lap and smiled for the photographer.

"I told them as long as you believe in Santa Claus, you get presents," said Young, of Halethorpe. "They want presents, so they still do it."

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