PHOTOS: Santa visits Mackle Park for cookies, milk and Christmas wishes

Mrs. Claus reads 'The Night Before Christmas' to a young audience. Santa came to Mackle Park on Marco Island Saturday to have photos taken with the island's  children, and have some milk and cookies, which were also being indulged in by the dads on hand. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Mrs. Claus reads "The Night Before Christmas" to a young audience. Santa came to Mackle Park on Marco Island Saturday to have photos taken with the island's children, and have some milk and cookies, which were also being indulged in by the dads on hand. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Santa came to Mackle Park on Marco Island Saturday to have photos taken with the island’s children. Mr. Claus was apparently lured in by the chance to have some milk and cookies, which were also being indulged in by the dads on hand. The children got plenty of cookies too, along with milk and hot chocolate, plus the chance to make some ornaments to put under, or on, the tree.

Many of the younger kids wanted nothing to do with sitting on the lap of a funny-looking bearded man, and it was a little like herding cats for the parents. The under-two set often ended up being held by mom instead of Santa, in a group shot.

Parents, or grandparents could shoot their own snapshots, or get a professional 5x7 from photographer Betsy Francis of Marco Island Image Design for $7. The community room at Mackle Park was mobbed from the moment the doors opened at 10 a.m., with a line out the door, said Parks & Rec’s Lola Dial.

Mrs. Claus gathered a crowd of her own, reading aloud holiday favorites including “The Night Before Christmas” to a group of youngsters. The high-definition fireplace crackled merrily on the big screen TV, and the room was a hive of activity, bringing to mind Santa’s workshop – or perhaps a sweatshop – with the kids in the role of elves.

Members of the Lely High School Key Club served as volunteers for the occasion, helping run the crafts stations, organizing the queue for Santa photos, and keeping the cookies and milk coming.

Emma Raistrick and Briana Anguilana managed one of the activities, making up bags of “reindeer food” for the children to take home.

“You put it out on the lawn on Christmas Eve,” explained Emma. “People leave cookies out for Santa, it’s only right the reindeer get something, too.” Kids including Katie and Bella Portu also made snowflake ornaments, heavy on the blue macaroni, and it was left to mothers, like Carie Portu, to carry them around and safeguard them, “doing a mom’s job,” as Carie put it.

Children also pasted up sticker scenes, decorated hot chocolate mugs, and created something called “snowman soup,” although recreation supervisor Mindy Matusiak couldn’t say just how many snowmen have to be sacrificed per gallon. She did say the park has been holding the event for six years now.

“Families look forward to it. It’s a chance for them to take the kids to see Santa right here on Marco, without having to leave the island,” she said.

“This is really nice,” said Molly Green, helping her daughter Lola, age 3, select Christmas cookies. “We just moved here, and there are a lot of great holiday things going on.”

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