Santa waves to his fans as he arrives at Haller Fountain aboard the Kiwanis Choo Choo in downtown Port Townsend on Saturday to oversee the lighting of the community tree. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Santa waves to his fans as he arrives at Haller Fountain aboard the Kiwanis Choo Choo in downtown Port Townsend on Saturday to oversee the lighting of the community tree. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend Santa, tree-lighting draws visitors

‘They don’t do Christmas like this where we’re from’

PORT TOWNSEND — Santa Claus’ arrival at the Flagship Landing building around 2:30 p.m. Saturday aboard the Kiwanis Choo Choo signaled the start for the parents and children waiting in line for an afternoon filled with shopping, eating and admiring decorations.

“I was here last year for the tree lighting and this has much more to do and the Santa is so much better than the mall Santa,” said Melissa Hirn of Tacoma, who was with her son, Oliver, 10.

“They don’t do Christmas like this where we’re from.”

In addition to Santa, who led the tree lighting at Haller Fountain at 4:30 p.m., the holiday atmosphere was enlivened by carolers with the Wild Rose Choral who strolled up and down Water Street, a generous amount of Christmas lights and the Grinch. The event was sponsored by Port Townsend Main Street.

Many of the stores were open late to accommodate shoppers and the First Saturday Gallery Walk that began at 8:30 p.m.

Among the activities was a decoration station sponsored by PT Artscape at Tyler Street Plaza, where children could make ornaments from repurposed coffee pods, ribbon, bells and beads.

Donations and the sale of acrylic on wood tiles painted by local artists went to support the organization, which has been enhancing arts education in Port Townsend schools since 1998 by providing supplies and bringing professional artists in classrooms.

Among the elves keeping children occupied while waiting in line for Santa was Kimberly Snow, who called herself a “veteran” holiday volunteer.

Wearing pointy ears, a red skirt and a vest and Santa hat trimmed in fake leopard fur, Snow led choruses of “Jingle Bells” and handed out tiny candy canes.

“I’m on a one-hour shift because I have to head back home for a costume change to prepare for being in a play,” Snow said. “Santa and Mrs. Claus are in it, too.”

(The play, “Heist Society,” was a mystery dinner and fundraiser for Port Townsend Kiwanis.)

The Zarzecznys — Justin and Jill and their daughters Lupine, 9, and Althea, 4 — had traveled from Port Angeles to enjoy an “old-fashioned” Christmas, they said.

“We did this last year and really enjoyed it,” Justin Zarzeczny said. “We’ll stay for dinner and the tree lighting and then we’ll see how it goes.”

While some children wore Santa hats or reindeer antlers, Cora Santiago, 6, and her little sister Cleo, 5, of Sequim opted for glitter: black sequin-encrusted boots, gold sequin jackets and black and rose gold sequined dresses.

Every weekend girls stay with their grandmother Gabe Santiago, who lives in Port Townsend.

But today was special.

“These are their holiday outfits and they get to wear them all day,” Santiago said. “We have a lot of fun together.”

Adrian and Emily Pike brought their son, Edwin, who is almost 5 months old, downtown for his first visit with Santa.

“We’re just getting into the Christmas tradition with a baby,” Adrian Pike said of Edwin, who was sound asleep in his carrier.

“We’ve never really had a reason to come downtown to see Santa, because we’re a little old to sit in his lap,” Emily Pike said.

Upcoming Port Townsend Main Street events include holiday gift wrapping by Port Townsend High School students with the Kiwanis Key Club and Rotary Interact Club at the Tyler Street Plaza on Saturday, and a Sunday deadline for entries into the 28th annual Uptown Gingerbread Contest at the Port Townsend Library, 1220 Lawrence St. Judging will take place between Dec. 12-19 and winners will be announced Dec. 22.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@soundpublishing.com.

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