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Santa scheduled to arrive in Arbutus Saturday

Santa is greeted by children and their families as he arrives to Arbutus Town Hall on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014.
Santa is greeted by children and their families as he arrives to Arbutus Town Hall on Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. (Brian Krista / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A longstanding local holiday tradition based on the simple premise of a night of free fun for a family returns to Arbutus on Saturday, Nov. 28, as the Arbutus Business and Professional Association presents the annual Christmas tree lighting and the arrival of Santa Claus.

The event in and around the Arbutus Town Hall on Stevens Avenue, across from the Ice Cream Cottage, is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

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There will be kids games, a moon bounce, face painting and crafts available for all the younger visitors to enjoy while they wait to hear the sound of horns and sirens from a long line of emergency vehicles that mark the arrival of Santa Claus on a fire engine from the nearby Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department.

There is no charge for any of the activities, which are courtesy of The Y in Ellicott City and ReMax New Beginnings, nor the popcorn and juice, which are courtesy of Arbutus Auto Body.

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"We do it all for free. A lot of people donate their time and their stuff," said Jeff Utzinger, the longtime organizer of the event. "It's all for the kids.

"The Arbutus Community Association helps us out a lot, with the hall, and they sponsor the tree lighting," he said.

"It's a good amount of people. People help me out with the planning. I got eight friends who are working the games," he said.

Each young guest will also receive a free gift bag that will contain a coloring book, crayons and a candy cane, Utzinger said.

Once Santa and his helpers settle into his station near the town hall, the area's youngsters will have the opportunity to deliver their special requests for what they want him to deliver to them on Dec. 25.

"What I hear from the people who like our Santa House, is that they like that there's no pressure to buy a picture [of their child on Santa's lap]. They can bring their own cameras," Utzinger said.

Last year's event attracted more than 600, he said, while more than 800 filled the town hall parking lot the year before.

Utzinger said his involvement with the Santa House began years ago, when the event was held on the parking of what was then a Metro Auto Parts store on Sulphur Spring Road.

But his recollection of seeing Santa come to Arbutus goes back to his childhood, when Santa welcomed guests on the East Drive parking lot where the Pantry One convenience store is now.

Making such memories for youngsters every year is part of the tradition in Arbutus.

Holiday train garden an Arbutus tradition

The 22nd anniversary edition of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department's Old Fashioned Christmas Train Garden is now open.

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This year's display features detailed N-Scale trains, with villages highlighting Norman Rockwell and Hummel buildings and layouts, according to a release from the department.

There will be different styles on each platform, according to the release, and the book and train platform will include characters from well-known children's books.

Admission to the display at the fire department, 5200 Southwestern Blvd., is free but donations are accepted.

The display is open weeknights, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and weekends, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. through Jan. 3.

It is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but open on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day from 11 a..m. to 4 p.m.

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