A great sense of community spirit filled Hillier Horsham on Saturday (7 December) when local businesses, a primary school and the town’s theatre came together to celebrate Santa’s arrival.
The children waiting for his arrival were suitably excited when Santa arrived in style at Hillier Horsham on Brighton Road on a tinsel decorated tractor to begin his stay at the garden centre’s grotto.
Over the day more than 60 children got to meet the man himself, where they had a story read to them and then received a special gift.
One of the visitors to the grotto, Millie Mew (3), said: “It was really exciting meeting Father Christmas, he read me a funny poem and I told him I wanted a scooter. I loved my present too.”
Children from Kingslea School in Horsham packed out the garden centre to sing carols to shoppers, adding a magical festive touch to the day.
The Capitol Horsham’s pantomime star, Steven Arnold, made a special appearance – dressed as his character Smee – where he read Peter Pan to the many children that had come along for the story time and told them about rehearsing for the show which opens Thursday 12 December.
Shopfest Craft Den based at the garden centre invited crafters big and small to take part in decoupaging a tree in the Den, giving everyone the opportunity to find out more about the crafts offered. The Den also played host to children’s author Ruth Young, who signed books for children.
Huxley’s Birds of Prey were on site during the day with three of their residents, giving many families the chance to stroke and get up close to the fantastic creatures.
Facepainting business Fuzzylubkins offered free facepainting during the day, where children (and a few adults) were turned into everything from tigers and princesses to Father Christmas and a snowman!
Terry Clarke, Manager at Hillier Horsham, said: “This was a really fun day for all involved. There was so much going on; it made for a great way to really kick off the festivities. And if the look on the children’s faces when they’d met our Santa is anything to go by, we’ve got some very happy younger customers.”
Santa’s Grotto is open every weekend until Christmas, and Monday 23 December. Entrance is £3 per child, with each child receiving an age appropriate gift. For times see facebook.com/hilliergardencentres or call Hillier Horsham on 01403 210223.
Report and pictures contributed by Hillier Horsham.