SOUTH SHORE – Santa was a busy man Dec. 12 as he gathered intelligence from area children on their hopes and wishes for Christmas this year.
The Jolly Old Soul, aka Chris Combs of Sun City Center, was spotted first at Century 21 Beggins Enterprises in Apollo Beach, where Craig Beggins and his wife, Angelique, hosted their annual Toys for Tots collection party. Children – and several pets – had their pictures taken with Santa, and then were invited to partake in a Beggins family tradition of decorating Christmas cookies.
Over at Hydro Harvest Farms in Ruskin, owner John Lawson donned his annual Santa attire and invited children to pose with him for photos in a special Christmas setting.
Later in the afternoon St. Nick, aka John O’Connor of Duette, made his annual appearance at The Alley in Riverview for the South Shore Toys for Tots Wrap-up Party. The effort was the biggest ever and catapulted South Shore into the largest Toys for Tots drive in the state, said Don Pearson, event sponsor. Donated this year was $9,140 along with 78 boxes of toys and 251 bicycles. Of the bikes, Ruskin resident Robert Coon collected 181 while Century 21 Beggins Enterprises collected 64.
Other holiday events included the Friends of the SouthShore Regional Library’s Festival of Trees, which started with a pancake breakfast and was followed by Jingle Jamboree and the annual decorated tree auction at the library. Santa wasn’t there, but Cookie Mouse of “If You Take a Mouse to the Movies” fame dropped in to say hi. The breakfast and auction raised more than $1,200 for library programs.
And in Sun City Center, about 1,000 residents turned out to see 82 decorated golf carts participate in the annual Holiday Golf Cart Parade, which was followed by Winter Fest. Both were sponsored by Minto Communities.