VERNON TOWNSHIP, NJ --- Every year families arrive at the Vernon Fire House to get pictures of their children with Santa Claus.
Santa sits in a chair in front of a fire truck, with fake snow under his feet and a decorated Christmas tree to the right of him.
The annual pictures with Santa event is run by the Ladies Auxiliary, with all proceeds benefiting the fire department.
Children are dressed from head to toe in holiday attire, as they sit on Santa’s lap with a candy cane in hand. They smile big as the picture is snapped, then immediately developed within the next couple of minutes.
The photos were captured by Ladies Auxiliary president, Kristi Raperto and Vice President, Danielle Begg.
Other members included: Patti Van Lenten, Kareen Alba, Christina Clavin and Michele McQuillian.
For being such good participants, the children then pick a free stuffed animal out of a bin. They also received a goody bag of little toys and bubbles, along with educational pamphlets on fire safety.
There was also “reindeer food” in a bowl, which was oats with sparkly glitter.
It was given to the children in a clear Ziploc bag with a note attached that read, “Sprinkle this outside Christmas Eve night. The moonlight will make it sparkle bright. As the reindeer fly and roam. This will guide them to your home!”
The freebies were generously donated by Irene Struble, one of the founding Ladies Auxiliary members.
Guy Kovalcik has been on the Vernon Fire Department for the past 15 years, and has played Santa for the past six years.
“I normally play Santa unless I am working my regular job,” said Kovalcik.
Author, Leesa Beckmann attended the event with Oliver, her two-year old Sebastopol Goose.
According to Beckmann, Oliver is an indoor pet who wears a diaper.
“He usually sleeps in the tub at night with a bucket of water,” said Beckmann, “He takes the towels and makes a nest for himself. He also enjoy swimming in the pool with me in the summer.”
Oliver sat in Beckmann’s lap during the event and was kind and gentle, while children pet his beautiful white feathers. He also made a fashionable appearance dressed in a red diaper, red scarf and Santa hat.
Oliver had inspired Beckmann to write three children’s novels about his adventures.
Her novel "Oliver’s Search for Miss Matilda and her Murky Mud Puddle," focuses around Oliver’s journey through Vernon Township. His travels include: The Appalachian Trail, Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, Maple Grange Road, and Mastodon Lake, all in search of Miss Matilda the Mastodon.
According to history, Miss Matilda was discovered in the Highland Lakes section of Vernon in 1954.
“It teaches kids about history in their own backyard,” stated Beckmann, “It inspires kids to read, write and discover.”
Beckmann was there selling her novels, and introducing Oliver to all the children.
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