Santa Claus listens to Christmas wishes.

The halls were decked and the gym was absolutely overflowing with holiday decorations for the Bridgeview Park District’s Annual Christmas Dinner on December 10th. Thousands of lights and hundreds of candy canes and gingerbread people covered the ceiling, and at the center was a pathway lined with giant candy leading to a gingerbread house.

The festivities kicked off with a delicious holiday dining experience featuring every Christmas staple you could hope for. There was salad, potato wedges, cranberry sauce, turkey, gravy, corn, bread rolls, and stuffing served by volunteers, Bridgeview Park District employees, and the Bridgeview Park District Board of Commissioners, Al Kruse, Ken Pannaralla, Mariam Ahmad, Justin Willis, and James Cecott.

Filled with energy from the hearty and joyous meal, children danced to their Christmas favorites played by DJ Mike and enjoyed live performances by James Libera throughout the night. When their signature holiday song started playing, gingerbread men suddenly burst into the room and began dancing and playing with the excited crowd.

With music playing in the background, 15 lucky attendees who found tickets taped beneath their seats were invited to participate in a fun-filled game! Participants blindly used their hands to feel an unknown object that might be soft, furry, tough, or something in-between and were asked to guess what that object was! Whether people guessed correctly or not they received a small stuffed elf to take home for their efforts.

Soon after, Mrs. Claus made her appearance and caused a gleeful commotion that filled the room with sugar-sweet smiles as she began handing out gingerbread cookies along with the icing to decorate them.

With tasty treats in families’ hands, the excitement continued with the announcement of the Gingerbread Decorating Contest winners. Throughout the day guests were encouraged to view the collection of gingerbread houses and vote for their favorite. Confectionary creations ranged from simple and elegant to elaborate and chaotic with colorful candy galore. Park District Vice-President Ken Pannaralla announced the contest winners and handed out their gift card prizes amid enthusiastic applause.

Just when families thought the night couldn’t get any better, none other than jolly old Saint Nick himself emerged to spread holiday cheer! Santa Claus sauntered merrily around the room in his fluffy white beard and red suit to speak with the thrilled children and take pictures with them. This marked the end of a long and joyful night filled with smiles, surprises, and holiday spirit.