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Santa visits Sandwich for Tree Party

Sophia Muskat gets a gift from Santa. Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)
December 22, 2010
SANDWICH — A trip to town hall became a trip to the North Pole for local children at the annual Community Christmas Tree Party.

On Sunday, the Sandwich Women's Club with the help of many other organizations and locals hosted the annual party where every child in Sandwich was entitled to a gift.

Diane Johnson of the Sandwich Women's Club said the Community Christmas Tree Party has been a Sandwich tradition since the Great Depression when basic gifts such as fruit and candy were in short supply. Johnson said the party started when Helen Ingalls and the Sandwich Girl Scouts wanted to make sure that all children in town received a gift and holiday cheer in a tough economic time. Many groups, such as Kenyon Club, and individuals over the years have kept it alive. More than 25 years ago Lee Webb got the Sandwich Women's Club to sponsor it.

An event was put together for the town's children to gather, meet with Santa Claus, and receive a gift. The tradition continues today. Members of the Sandwich Women's Club knit mittens and provide fruit for every child. Children also get small wrapped presents appropriate for their age. Children who were unable to attend received their gifts at a later time.

This year's party was held at town hall, which provided stage space for a new event at the party: a play called "The Lapland Express."

The production combining the basic premise of "The Polar Express" with elements of other traditional holiday stories. Marion Posner of Tamworth Learning Circles was originally planned to tell holiday stories, but she came up with the concept and put the production together with the help of many friends. Posner recruited a number of friends to help out together the production in a few weeks with actors having two hours to rehearse.

Madeline Moneypenny played Celeste, a little girl who rides a train from her home to the North Pole with a group of other children lead by a conductor (played by Alex Butcher-Nesbitt). On their way to the North Pole, they stop in London to meet Ebenezer Scrooge (Bob Bates) and Posner herself giving a harried account of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with Caroline Nesbitt delivering unusual gifts. The train then stopped in the mountains, a stage where Nesbitt, with some help from Lisa Thompson, used puppets to tell some winter tales from other cultures. Tom Posner appeared at the end and "played a part that is always magical," said Marion Posner.

Marion Posner said this production will hopefully herald a theater guild that is in the planning stages.

"A great testament I think to what can happen on stage," Marion Posner said.

Parents overall said they greatly enjoyed the performance.

"It's kind of a little bit of an experiment, but I think it's worked out well," Johnson said, saying she hopes the play will take place again next year.

Nan Russell then lead families in singing "The Dreidel Song," demonstrating a dreidel and a menorah. This was followed by a rousing round of "Jingle Bells."

After the performances, children went downstairs to visit with Santa and receive their gifts. Children were called down by age group, staring with children born In 2009 and 2010 right up through elementary school.

"It's just a great tradition that the Women's Club has been making mittens for kids since the Great Depression," said Birgit Nedeau, who came with her daughters Alaina and Gabrielle Nedeau with daughter Rebecca Nedeau playing one of Santa's elves with Alyssa Floyd.

"I think they did a wonderful job, it's so nice to see members of the community work s hard to make this wonderful for the children," said Jennifer Muskat, who brought her 6-year-old daughter Sophia.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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