Santa and his significant other drop in on Maple Ridge Centre playgroup

Santa poses with Buckley, 3 (left) and Cooper, 2, at Maple Ridge Centre, Dec. 13. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

MAPLE RIDGE CENTRE — The regular Wednesday morning playgroup at Maple Ridge Centre was extra magical these last two weeks as Mrs. and Mr. Claus paid individual visits to the venue.

The wife of Santa Claus delighted the tots and their caregivers on scene, Dec. 6. She was followed by her white-bearded husband this morning, Dec. 13.

Located the past four years at the privately-owned Centre, the Playgroup operates during the school year, a fun spot for parents, grandparents or other caregivers to enjoy some time and organized play with little ones not yet in regular classrooms. Participating children are pre-school age, from infants up to about four years old — but that doesn’t preclude parents from arriving with older offspring as well.

“It’s just an outing,” says Playgroup coordinator Ruth Vanderlaan, who previously operated out of the United Church in Winchester Springs before shifting to the much larger facility on the County Rd. 43 — the former Maple Ridge Senior Public School owned by Rachel and Conrad Potvin.

Parents are sometimes even drawn to pull their older kids out of regular school to attend a special event — such as a visit by Mr. or Mrs. Claus — at the Playgroup, she says. “We even have great grandparents and their great-grandchildren.”

The youngsters enjoy crafts and a gymnasium full of pedal carts and other attractions, including a trampoline.

Attendance averages between 15 or 20 each week, according to Vanderlaan, and a charge of $30 per family applies each semester (next semester starts in February). Visitors or non-regulars are encouraged to drop by on as-needed basis. The drop-in charge is $5 per family.

This morning’s Santa was the real deal — from the North Pole, by way of Monkland — as indicated by the genuine beard. He sometimes travels in disguise as a tall Dutch-Canadian known as Jack Vanderburg of North Stormont. Vanderburg has a Facebook page promoting his services, although he’s almost booked up for this Christmas season.

Below, Maple Ridge Centre’s well-attended Wednesday play group hosted Mrs. Claus, Dec. 6. The clip includes images of Santa’s wife with (in chronological order) Ronin Morrow, 2½, of Winchester, Emma Riddell, 3, and her 6-week-old sister, Teyla. Hunter Reeve, 2½, of Winchester appears at the end on a riding toy in the Centre gymnasium.


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