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North Pole on North Street

November 23, 2018

GREENWICH — When Santa Claus pulled up to Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses in backcountry Greenwich on Friday, at least one 5-year-old in the crowd figured he was the real deal.

“She loves being able to meet him and hug him,” Katie Cotter of White Plains, N.Y., said as her daughter, Emma, cheered his arrival. “She thinks it’s the real Santa. I love seeing her happy. ... They make it a great beginning to the season.”

This is third year for the Cotters at the annual Greenwich Reindeer Festival and Santa’s Village held at Sam Bridge Nursery & Greenhouses — an event with Santa and live reindeer that is also known as the North Pole on North Street.

The event opened for the 2018 holiday season as Santa arrived in style in a 2018 Mercedes (from Mercedes-Benz of Greenwich) driven by Mrs. Claus, aka Christine Georgopulo, for a welcome back party.

After a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open Santa’s Village, old St. Nick immediately went to work — hearing what Greenwich kids want for Christmas.

TMK Sports and Entertainment is again producing the festival, now in its 10th year.

“People love it,” said Tamara Ketler, TMK’s founder. “It’s great for business in town ... We want to promote Greenwich as a shopping and dining destination during the holiday season. We love seeing the kids be so excited for Santa and the reindeer. It’s just great.”

Three reindeer also arrived Friday and will make the village their home for the next month. The public is invited to view the reindeer — behind a double fence, for safety — during business hours.

This is the third year that Sam Bridge has hosted the event at 437 North St. The business is transformed for the holiday season, selling Christmas trees, wreathes, ornaments, nutcrackers, poinsettias and more — even sells holiday merchandise for pets.

“It’s a lot of fun,” store owner Sam Bridge said. “We really enjoy it. It’s great to see the kids getting such a kick out of this and seeing all the people. The staff enjoys it. We get a kick out of it, too.”

Many families came on a frigid Friday afternoonn just for the arrival of Santa Claus.

Greenwich residents Chris and Shawna Aidone came with their children, Audrey, 6, and Julia, 5.

“I can’t wait to see Santa and take a picture with him,” Audrey said.

Greenwich resident Kaile Zagger and her children Geralyn, 5, and Colt, 3, come every year.

“It’s such a fun family event,” Zagger said. “We really love Sam Bridge. We always come for the Halloween activities and the scarecrows, and then we come to see the reindeer and get our tree here. It’s a fun family time for us.”

She said her kids look forward to seeing Santa and riding the train and the carousel — “as soon as Thanksgiving is over.”

The popular carousel and train operate during regular business hours. In a new twist for 201, the train will take kids on a “tour of Greenwich,” thanks to large photos set up along the train tracks. Kids can spy Town Hall, Riverside School, the Bendheim Greenwich Civic Center, the Bruce Museum, Greenwich Point and the Banksville Fire House.

The photos were the brainchild of Maggie Bridge, the business’s manager of sales and marketing, and the family. Bridge said she took the photos herself.

“We wanted to put up a village, too, (for the train ride) and we wanted it to be really community-oriented,” Bridge said. “Everything worked out really nicely. It was a fun little project.”

It took three works of prep work to set up for the busy holiday season. But once the reindeer arrive, Sam Bridge said they’re easy to care for.

“The whole Christmas season is three weeks of setting it up, three weeks of selling it and three weeks of taking it down,” Bridge said. “It’s a bit of work, but it’s fun and we enjoy it.”

The reindeer will be at Sam Bridge until Dec. 22. Santa will be on hand for photos until Christmas Eve, when the village will shut down for the year at 3 p.m.

Santa’s Village will be open noon to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays. Sam Bridge is closed on Sundays. For more information, visit www.GreenwichReindeerFestival.com.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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