Crowd surges at Chesterville Rotary Club’s Breakfast with Santa event

Chesterville-Finch-area resident Noah Shay, 6 weeks old, relaxes in Santa's arms, at the Chesterville Legion in 2017 — site of the Chesterville Rotary Club's annual Breakfast with Santa event. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Concerted social media campaign drives up numbers to see old St. Nick at Chesterville Legion

CHESTERVILLE — In their hundreds, they lined up for scrambled eggs, sausages and ham and a chance to see Santa at the Chesterville Legion last Saturday morning.

When all was said and done, harried but satisfied members of the Chesterville Rotary Club duly noted the surge in the event’s popularity this year. They’ve attributed the higher numbers in part to a concerted Facebook campaign that stoked awareness and whipped up an appetite among the community’s current generation of online-connected young parents, combined with mild weather that day.

Past President Joe Cass, 75, did yeoman service over the kitchen griddle, cracking and frying 71 dozen eggs, while current President Martin Derks regularly demanded more and more again from his post on the serving line. “I was accused of using a shovel,” Derks, 72, joked later. An all-volunteer affair, the Club’s other members and their friends pitched in to make the day a resounding success.

“We cleared $1,166 dollars [after expenses],” happily declared a key organizer of the event, Ruth Gilroy, in front of her fellow Rotarians at the Club’s regular meeting on Monday night. Gilroy estimated the number of breakfasts served at almost 400, based on the amount of cutlery dispensed. “I can’t believe … we went through 578 sausages,” she marvelled. “Almost 600, so we’re going to have to order more next year, and these are all made by Greg’s Quality Meats.”

Patrons also consumed 32 pounds of ham and 52 litres of orange juice supplied by Mike Dean’s.

A few scenes from the 2017 Breakfast with Santa in Chesterville, above.

“Next year, we’ll need more help,” suggested Cass, “because we are not spring chickens anymore. There was no end to it. I don’t think the pans ever left the stove for any more than a minute and a half. It was pretty hectic in there.”

“The weather was excellent, but I don’t think that was the whole thing,” said Stan Vanden Bosch of this year’s success, adding it had to be the impact of Nation Valley New’s social media campaign.

Cass noted it was only the second time in 20 years that the crowd overflowed into the Legion bar area to take up the tables in that room.

“It’s a nice community thing to do, my son looks slightly terrified,” said a laughing Winchester parent as her three-year-old boy took a spot on Santa’s lap that morning.

“We did it here instead of the mall,” said the mother of an infant boy who had his first introduction to the Jolly Old Elf. “Because this crowd is easier to handle,” added Andrea Leclair of Chesterville after Zach, 5 ½ mos., and his siblings posed with Santa.

Abraham Rollins of Ottawa, originally of the Morewood area, said it was great to be back in Chesterville for the annual event. “They get to have fun,” he said of his children on Santa’s knee, “and we get to socialize.”

A line-up of parents and children snaked through the Legion hall on their way to Santa’s throne.

Thousands of people reached in advance

Nation Valley News helped generate advance publicity for the event through an online story and a virtual spotlight sponsor page linked to NVN’s well-followed Facebook feed where the message — conveyed in both video and static-image versions — reached 6,503 people. NVN also oversaw the creation and sharing of the Club’s official Facebook event with an optimized image complying with the social media giant’s distribution algorithm — reaching 5,500 people in that case. Two advance posts about the breakfast on drew attention as well, with 509 hits.

Glen Merkley, waiting for a chance to see Santa with granddaughter Evelynn, acknowledged seeing his picture — taken at last year’s event — in the advance video. A family member had shared it with him on Facebook, he said.

NVN founder Nelson Zandbergen is a member of the Chesterville & District Rotary Club.

See the gallery of images from the Club’s 2017 Chesterville with Santa event, below.


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