The 33rd Santa’s Village runs through Dec. 10 at the Ned McWherter Agricultural Pavilion at UTM.
The Village is open from 6-9 tonight; from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 9; and from 1-5 p.m. Dec. 10. Attractions include the Enchanted Forest, MTD model train display, a petting farm, amusement rides, musical entertainment and visits with Santa. WLJT-TV will also host Clifford the Big Red Dog, Elmo and Winnie the Pooh on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.. Additionally, more than 50 craft vendors will be stationed on the mezzanine level, said Kim Kirby, Martin Parks & Recreation Department Program Director.
The event is a collaboration between the City of Martin and UTM. Admission is free, but attendees are encouraged to bring gently used toys and or $5 of nonperishable foods.
Kirby emphasized that this is only a donation and that community members can participate regardless of whether or not they have items to give.
“We want anyone and everyone to come and enjoy the village and make it part of their merriment for the holiday season, so if you don’t have anything and you can’t donate, please don’t feel like you can’t come because we’re welcoming everybody and we’re doing it for them,” Kirby said.
The items are donated to Martin nonprofit organization, We Care Ministries.
We Care is a faith-based organization that supports those in need. Their services include public and family support and hunger relief. They also offer educational, spiritual and seasonal support and have a thrift shop.
The event is organized by the Martin Parks & Recreation Department with the help of several sponsors. This year these include Simmons Bank, Savant Learning Systems, Zaxby’s, Casey’s General Store and First Community Bank. Planning begins after the previous Village event has concluded and intensifies after the Soybean Festival.
The first Santa’s Village took place in 1985 and since its inception has attracted 340,303 visitors and collected $1,242,042 in value of donations, according to Kirby. To learn more about Santa’s Village, visit the Parks & Recreation page at www.cityofmartin.net.