Santa arrives in style for Greenwich Reindeer Festival

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GREENWICH — In true Greenwich fashion, when Santa Claus arrived at Sam Bridge Nursery and Greenhouses on Friday he did not travel by sleigh. Instead, he was transported in a new car from Mercedes-Benz of Greenwich.

But no matter how he arrived, Santa is here to stay throughout the Christmas season along with his reindeer, which arrived a little bit later Friday for the 11th annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival and Santa’s Village.

For much of December, Santa and the reindeer will be on hand for pictures with young and old alike. The town tradition also includes a train ride, which shows off photographs of some of Greenwich’s best-known spots, and a carousel. It was all put together by TMK Sports and Entertainment with the help of Greenwich Moms.

“This is an event that’s about the community,” said Tamara Ketler, TMK’s founder. “It’s about creating something really special for families.”

For the past four years, Sam Bridge has hosted the Reindeer Festival, which fits in at the backcountry nursery that serves as a destination for Christmas tree shoppers every year.

“This is awesome,” said Maggie Bridge, manager of sales and marketing at Sam Bridge and the photographer who took all the photos featured on the train ride. “It’s really nice because it brings in a whole new group of people each year. We’re always excited to host it.”

With a late Thanksgiving this year, it’s less than a month until Christmas and shoppers were already out in force.

“We’ve been going gangbusters really since Halloween,” Bridge said. “It’s a compressed season and that means we have a lot of people coming at once. That makes it busy, but we’re up for the challenge. … Even though it’s the day after Thanksgiving it feels like Christmas here.”

It all kicked off at about noon when a crowd of about 50 greeted Santa as he arrived in a car driven by Mary Anne Heaven, along with Greenwich Catholic School Principal Patrice Kopas and 7-year-old student Antonio Vitti.

Families were eager for the festivities to get started. Janine Corticelli came with Ella, 7, who is a big fan of the reindeer — especially their antlers.

“We come every year,” said Sarah Pribyl, who was there with her children Campbell, 2, Alex, 5, and Charlie, 7. “It’s an annual tradition. We come to get our tree here on the day after Thanksgiving and the kids see Santa and the reindeer. We love it..”

John Mero of New York City was there with his son Darien, 10, for the second year in a row.

“We wanted to see the reindeer,” Mero said. “They’re not something we see all the time.”

Kids in Crisis is a beneficiary of the event, with a giving tree set up where shoppers can purchase items needed by the nonprofit, which provides 24/7 care to children and families in need. And a collection box is set up for donations to Toys for Tots.

Santa’s Village at 437 North St. will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. It will be closed Sundays. The rides will be available from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. The reindeer will be on hand until Dec. 22 but Santa will stick around until Christmas Eve at 3 p.m.

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