Santa's grotto bringing kids together

By Peter de Graaf

A veritable forest of Christmas trees has sprung up in Santa's grotto in Kaikohe.

Located in the old Paper Plus shop on the corner of Broadway and Clifford St, the grotto is home to dozens of trees decorated by schools, businesses and charities - ranging from the $2 Shop to Women's Refuge - as well as a remembrance tree where visitors can leave a message for people who have passed on or are far away. Visitors can also leave gifts for needy families and the SPCA at an angel tree.

Kids can listen to story-tellers, pen a letter to Santa or, when he can take time out from the toy factory, sit on his knee to make their gift requests directly.

The grotto is an initiative of the Kaikohe Community Arts Council and is part of the inaugural Shine Kaikohe festival.

Arts council member Kelly van Gaalen said the idea was to create "a bit of Christmas atmosphere" and bring children together.

"It's a place to give you warm fuzzies," she said.

A team of Santas, in a variety of sizes and colours, would take turns occupying the grotto's big chair. The grotto is open from 10am to noon on weekdays, 10am to 1pm on Saturdays and closed Sundays. The hours are likely to be expanded so kids can visit after school.

The grotto will be open until December 24 but the decorations will stay in place until January 15. Entry is free.

- Northern Advocate

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