CRANBERRY TWP — The smiling faces of the children greeted Santa's sleigh — a specially decked out Cranberry Township Volunteer Fire Company antique truck — Friday evening as he made his “first stop” here to light the township's Christmas tree.
The annual Santa's First Stop holiday event draws families to enjoy time together, kick off the holiday festivities and help create holiday traditions.
During the evening, children had a variety of activities. They could send letters to Santa, make holiday bookmarks, make Magic Reindeer Feed, and enjoy holiday cookies and refreshments.
Children were entertained by the crocodile, CT, Cranberry's Water Park mascot, and Mrs. Claus greeted people and assisted children with their holiday crafts before being escorted to the outside stage to await her husband's arrival.
Attendees also could see the Cranberry Gallery of Trees where more than 20 nonprofit groups decorated their own Christmas trees to help bring awareness to their missions.
The uniquely decorated trees will remain in the municipal center throughout the holiday season.
The Dutilh Choir from the Dutilh United Methodist Church sung both spiritual and traditional Christmas carols and music.
Amanda Woods of Bellevue, Allegheny County, and her niece, Ava Cheney, 19 months, came to enjoy the event and to listen to the choir.
“We're here to hear Ava's grandmother sing in the choir,” said Woods. “It's our first time here. It's very nice.”
Woods said she's excited for Christmas to be on the horizon, but only after enjoying Thanksgiving.
Steve Hall of Seven Fields was with his son Joshua, 3, waiting for the main attraction to show.
“We're here to see Santa Claus,” said Hall, adding this is his second year in a row to attend Santa's First Stop.
His son was shy, but excited about Santa and Christmas coming soon. He hopes Santa brings him a train set and a dump truck.
The families gathered outside of the municipal center to greet Santa as he pulled into the parking lot and made his way to the stage.
“It's my privilege to come to Cranberry first,” he said, before the crowd counted down to the lighting of the township's Christmas tree.
Santa remained after the lighting of the tree to talk with people. But there are a number of upcoming events when families and children can meet Santa.
A brunch with Santa is planned for Dec. 16 at the Cranberry Highland Golf Course Clubhouse where attendees can get pictures with Santa.
There are two sessions, one at 10 a.m. and one at 12:30 p.m. Cost is $13.95 per person with children ages 7 to 9 years old $7.50, and children 4 years old and under free. Registration is required.
There also will be milk and cookies with Santa on Dec. 1, 8 and 9 with morning and afternoon times available. Cost is $9 for residents and $12 for nonresidents.
To register for those events at the municipal center, call the Cranberry Parks and Recreation Department at 724-776-4806, Ext. 1129, or register online at the township's website: www.cranberrytownship.org.
The Friends of the Cranberry Library will host pet photos with Santa from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 1 in the library's children's room. Cost is $10 and includes a free holiday frame and envelope while supplies last. Proceeds benefit the library.
For information and required registration, call 724-776-9100.