Gracie Pete, 3, has had enough of Santa during a visit by the jolly old elf to New Auburn on Saturday afternoon for a Christmas celebration. Gracie’s mother, Maria Pete, kneels nearby to offer encouragement. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

AUBURN — For the fifth straight year, parents and children gathered Saturday afternoon to see Santa Claus by the Christmas tree in Sullivan Park, lit up in holiday colors.

The event was organized by City Councilor Leroy Walker and businessman Ken Blais, who jointly lead the United New Auburn Association. Tables were set up in front of Rolly’s diner, with volunteers handing out cookies and hot chocolate.

“It’s worked out really well,” Walker said. “We’ve done parades by us and parades with the city. This year is different because COVID really hurt us. The year before COVID hit, we had a big, big (turnout). I had like 25 events in the parade.”

The lot beside Rolly’s was a winter wonderland: a maze of Christmas decorations and lights swaying in the cold late afternoon wind. Kids ran among them while waiting for the main event.

What makes it worth while for Walker and the organizers is the reaction from the community. “Oh, the kids! I love having the kids come down. Of course all the adults come down with their children and (is) probably the best part of it. They get to see how nice it is for their kids to have fun.”

The event was sponsored by the Auburn Business Association, Auburn Dunkin Donuts and the city of Auburn’s Recreation and Sports Tourism Department.

Aaron Fitzgerald, the area supervisor for the Lewiston McDonalds, was running the beverage stand, passing out hot chocolate, coffee and cookies. Fitzgerald predicted Saturday would see a much bigger turnout than last year. By the time Santa arrived, the event had exceeded 100 people. He said he was glad to participate in the tradition and interact with the residents. “Just being in the community,” he said, as he poured hot chocolate.

From left, brothers Maximus, Lucien and Apollo Fuller try to remember what they had on their Christmas lists when they come face to face with Santa on Saturday during a holiday celebration in New Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Faces were aglow in Sullivan Park as Santa’s sleigh pulled into a sea of lights, cocoa and cookies to rousing applause, with Auburn Engine 5 leading the way. Many in the crowd then followed Santa to a bench near the Christmas tree for a turn to share their Christmas wishes.

Michelle Keim, of Leeds, surprised her daughter, Savannah, 5, with a trip to see St. Nick. “It was great,” said Savannah. “I asked for an American Girl doll.”

Florence Collidge, of Auburn, who came out with her daughter and grandchildren, ranked the event as one of the most important of the year, and certainly the biggest of the holiday season. “All the stuff they do for the kids. All the cookies and hot chocolate and free stockings and mittens, its beautiful.”

Santa then traveled to Festival Plaza down South Main Street for more celebrating and the lighting of the city’s official Christmas tree.

Young Madeline Chabot gets a little support from her mother, Jessie Plourde, while talking to Santa on Saturday at the Christmas celebration in New Auburn. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

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