Santa's wonderland a massive hit (+pics&video)

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When Johanna Porter visited Santa this weekend it wasn't toys she was wishing for this Christmas.

The 3-year-old was one of more than 1000 people who visited Santa in his wonderland in Redwoods iSite this weekend - but her request was a bit different to most.

The little girl, who has been in a full body cast for much of her life, asked Santa to have her cast off this Christmas. And it's a wish that is set to come true.

Johanna went along with her great aunt Beryl Sturt, and Mrs Sturt's granddaughter Victoria, 12, on Saturday with Mrs Sturt raving about the event.

"What a fantastic place that was! Johanna has been in a full body cast for the last two years because she had Talipes so she asked Santa if he could take the cast off for Christmas this year."

Talipes is a condition that can affect one or both of a baby's feet from birth. In most cases, the front half of the foot turns inwards and downwards.


"I thought it was really, really well done, it's the first time we've been to see Santa and haven't cried."

Mrs Sturt said they were heading to Waikato Hospital to get Johanna's casts off next week making her Christmas wish come true.

She said it would be a long road to teach her how to walk but having the casts off would be the "best Christmas present".

"I think everyone should go down and see that place, it's amazing," she said

Rotorua Visitor Centre and iSite manager Graham Brownrigg said Santa's Wonderland had taken off big time since it opened on Friday.

The conference room of the Redwoods iSite and Visitor Centre has been converted into Santa's Wonderland, a large Christmas display for the whole family to enjoy.

In the centre of the exhibit is Santa's sleigh, where children can climb aboard, hold the reindeer halters and maybe even meet Santa himself.

"It's been going gangbusters, we had maybe 1000 people through [on Saturday], everyone is really pleased.

"We have had people visiting from Tauranga and Taupo as well and we had 500 people through in the first three hours today.

"It's great for the kids and the fact that we have had long distance visitors means it's doing its job."

An Instagram competition will be running over the duration of Santa's Wonderland, where visitors are able to upload photos in the sleigh, tag #Rotoruaisite and go in the draw to win a prize for Christmas. The prize will be drawn on Christmas Eve.

A 'write a letter to Santa' mailbox will also be on site, with the potential for one lucky child to have their letter drawn and win a Santa surprise gift.

Santa will be at the Wonderland most weekends and the week leading to Christmas.

You can check Facebook for Santa's timetable at facebook.com/redwoodssantaswonderland.

Opening hours:
November 19 to December 15: 10am to 5pm
December 16 to December 24: 10am to 10pm

- For more photos of the magical wonderland head to page 7.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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