Warm reception sought when Santa comes to Lansdowne Friday

It didn't take long for it to get warm inside the Santa House on Hammonds Ferry Road Nov. 24 as volunteers worked to prepare for Santa's arrival Friday evening.

Debbie McVicker hopes the warmth to fight off Saturday afternoon's chill is just as easy to find every weekend for the next several weeks.

McVicker and members of the Lansdowne Elementary School PTA have stepped forward to aid the Lansdowne Business Association in opening the Santa House for the younger residents of the area.

The Santa House, on the property of McDowell Chimney Service, opened in 2009.

But, last year, few area residents took advantage of the opportunity to have their children deliver their Christmas wishes face to face with Santa Claus.

"We didn't realize it was there," admitted McVicker, who took her son, Donovan, then 5, to see Santa last year at a mall in Glen Burnie.

McVicker said she and her five siblings would see Santa in Arbutus as part of a family tradition while growing up on Sulphur Spring Road near Arbutus Elementary School.

"It was quite an event," she said.

Now, she hopes to make the Hammonds Ferry Road destination a tradition for families in the Lansdowne community where she has lived with her husband, Eric, for eight years.

Opening night is 5 p.m. Nov. 30. The house is open 5-8 p.m. Fridays and 4-8 p.m Saturdays through Dec. 22.

She said she is well aware that a visit to Santa can often put a strain on a family budget, once the cost of a photo and snacks are factored in.

"We're making this a completely free event," she said, pointing out that doughnuts and hot chocolate donated by local businesses will be available at the Santa House, as well as free photographs of every youngster's visit with Santa.

A meeting with Craig Rankin, of the Lansdowne Improvement Association, during a Family Night at the Lansdowne Station Chick-fil-a sparked the collaborative effort between McVicker's PTA group and the local business association, she said.

"The people that had been running it, I think they were looking for a little assistance with it this year," said Diane Grewe, one of the volunteers who were making final adjustments to the Santa House Saturday afternoon.

The Santa House is familiar territory for Grewe, whose daughter, Nicole Jones, is in third grade at Lansdowne Elementary. She said her son, Jorge, helped Rankin with the electrical work when the small cottage was built three years ago. She was also among the small crowd that attended last year's opening night.

McVicker said she is confident the efforts by her PTA members will result in a larger crowd of eager young guests this weekend, and every weekend before Christmas.

"Trying to do something as a community, it's a challenge to get people together," she said. "But so many people have so much pride in this town.

"It's a nice experience, seeing the community coming together," she said.

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