The cold night air was as full of anticipation on Nov. 24 as the parking lot in front of the Arbutus Town Hall was filled with families. Santa Claus would soon be arriving and the crowd of all ages was excited.
Flocking to the intersection near Southwestern Boulevard, the crowd cheered as the first fire trucks pulled into view with Santa waving in the middle of the procession. After carefully dismounting, Santa greeted everyone, pausing for photos while making his way to his cottage on Stevens Avenue.
"I went up to him," said Logan Anderson, 7, of his up close and personal experience with the evening's guest of honor. "I want to do it again."
Lisa Anderson, Logan's mother, grew up in Arbutus but now lives in Marriottsville. She comes back for Santa's arrival every year to enjoy the area's traditional start of the holiday season.
"I love it," she said. "This year may be a little colder."
While Santa's arrival is the highlight, there was much for the anxious young visitors to do, ranging from a moon bounce to decorating bird houses.
Girl Scout troops sang yuletide carols and traditional Christmas shows such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" played outside.
The crowd cheered when the Christmas tree was lit.
"It's really fun," said Kirsten Jackson, 10, of Lansdowne. "I enjoy the crafts and Santa."
Sponsored by the Arbutus Business Association, the event had more than 650 people attend last year, according to Richard Greene, a volunteer who helped organize the event, and the crowd seemed to be just as big on Saturday.
"There is a lot going on in one area," said Greene, of the event. "It brings a lot of different businesses around the area together."
Popping popcorn inside the Town Hall, Nicole Clark, membership director for the Y of Central Maryland's Catonsville branch said she has been a happy participant for three years.
"It is just a great community event," Clark said. "I mean, who doesn't love Santa?"
Conner Downs, 2, was a little shy around Santa, according to his dad, Douglas Downs, of Laurel.
"He's still a little scared," Downs said, of his son.
The family attended Saturday evening's free event because Lennea Downs, Douglas' wife, is an Arbutus native.
"I came back," Lennea said. "I come back every year. I love this place."
"I like it or I wouldn't come up here," Doug added with a smile as he showed off Conner's birdhouse. "He did a pretty good job."
As his granddaughter waited in line to visit with Santa, Jade Drenner of Arbutus waited patiently with the family's 10-week old puppy, Camden. It was Drenner's first time attending the event.
"Tonight is great," Drenner said. "The choir sounds great and Santa Claus looks healthy."