SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. – Children eagerly munched on their cookies awaiting their chance to tell Santa what they want for Christmas.

Organized by the South Orange Village Center Alliance, the visit from Santa occurred from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday at the South Orange firehouse.

“We try to get people downtown for the holiday shopping at the shops of South Orange,” said Carole Anzalone-Newman, executive director of the Village Center Alliance. “We’ve had big crowds every year, so we expect the same thing this year. The attendance is always weather dependent.”

Sign Up for E-News

Santa, too, had great expectations for the anticipated number of children. Santa regular John Buchanan of South Orange has been the jolly man in the red suit for the past annual visits.

“I’ve received everything from a nervous look to star struck that I’m actually here to a confused sense of wonder,” Buchanan said. “Overall everyone is happy to see Santa. The gifts they ask for are the normal toys of today. Boys usually ask for things that deal with sports or video games. Girls have asked for Barbies … to a pink pony. I have received different requests, for example the little kid who asked for their sick family member to get better.”

Two waiting for their chance to meet Santa were the Brown children, Daniel, 6, and Barbara, 2. The children quietly waited on line alongside their father, Ron Brown, owner of The Little Shop of Hip-Hop in South Orange.

In addition to the festivities, Clearview Cinemas sponsored a table with a spin wheel. For a donation, participants could spin the wheel for a chance to win prizes ranging from a complimentary movie ticket to a small popcorn.

Everyone was all smiles to see jolly old St. Nicholas.

The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.