By Molly Hayden, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public AffairsDecember 15, 2008
ALIAMANU MILITARY RESERVATION, Hawaii - A long way from the North Pole, Santa Claus arrived at the 12th Annual Holiday Fun Fest here, Dec. 6, with a smile on his face and greeted excited children of all ages.
"I always come to Hawaii a few weeks before the Christmas rush to visit the kids," joked Claus. "I'm working on my tan."
Moments later, Claus joined elves, Girl Scouts, firemen, military police and festively dressed pets to kick off the holiday parade.
Soldiers and family members sat on the sidelines catching candy canes and waving at passing parade participants.
As the parade ended, festive activities, including gingerbread house making, face painting and ornament making, kept the crowd entertained for hours.
SKIES classes, including little ninjas and various dance groups, along with Hickam Youth Sports & Fitness' Air Force Elite Cheerleading Squad and Flyers, lined the stage and performed for the captive audience. Other community groups, including Tahitian Dancers and teen singers Hunter Bradshaw and Texas Hart, kept the air festive as family members tapped their feet to the beat of the music.
The AMR Youth Center School Aged Services program kept bellies full of hot dogs, chips, soft drinks, chili and shave ice.
Door prizes, including cordless phones, computer rollaway bags, two adult Magic in Paradise Dinner Show tickets, and holiday DVD and CD music were awarded to lucky participants.
"This year has been an amazing collaborative effort from the community," said Nelson Acosta, Aliamanu Military Reservation (AMR) Teen Center coordinator. "It's more than putting on an event for the community, but rather bringing the community together for the event."
Children laughed and jumped in the bounce house while others lined up, waiting patiently, to tell Santa Claus what they wanted for Christmas.
"I've been good," said 7-year-old Rodney Sanchez after listing a few noted items he hoped would be under his tree this year.
Claus nodded in agreement.
Although the military ohana won't enjoy a white Christmas in Honolulu, the air was still filled with glee for the more than 500 family members who caught a glimpse of the holiday spirit, minus the snow.
"I'm very impressed with the way everyone in the community came together for the kids and families," said Bridget Timothy. "That's what the holidays are all about."
Cutter Ford, Tropic Lightning Real Estate, University of Phoenix, Stor-Quest Self Storage, Geico Hawaii, Child Shield USA, Oceanic Cable and the Hale Koa Hotel sponsored the event.