During the holidays, tradition takes center stage, and the town of Atlantic City is not without a few yuletide customs of its own, namely its annual Winter Wonderland event, which takes place this year 8 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10.
Entering its sixth year, the Winter Wonderland will be held at Bass Pro Shops, where amusement rides, face painting, balloon art, a magic show, music, toy give aways and refreshments will be set up outside and wedged in among the fish tanks and taxidermy deer, inside.
“The kids get very excited for the event,” says Executive Director of Recreation Michael Bailey. “There’s free fun and food. This year it’s in Bass Pro Shops again, and the kids get to see everything in the store. You can tell when they’re lined up outside how excited they are.”
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The games, rides and appearance by Santa may have kids jumping for joy, but the fact that it’s free is a holiday treat for their parents. A limited amount of tickets will be given out at City Hall from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1 and from 2 to 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2.
Another sigh of relief for the brave guardians out there who are willing to unleash their child, hopped up on sugar and adrenaline-inducing entertainment, into a Bass Pro Shops, is Bailey’s report that the kids at Winter Wonderland are always very well-behaved — though whether the presence of Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian or Santa Claus is the cause of such obedience is anyone’s guess.
“Children are everywhere, but they’re very well-behaved,” Bailey explains. “Bass Pro Shops still has their items in the store, but it’s done so well that everything goes smoothly.”
The Winter Wonderland is truly a community effort, with help from Guardian, the Atlantic City Free Public Library, Atlantic County Toys for Kids Program, Bass Pro Shops, Toys R Us, Five Below, Calvi Electric, 99.3 “The Buzz,” 96.1 WTTH “The Touch” and McDonald’s.
As with any tradition, for Bailey, Atlantic City’s Winter Wonderland is more than just an arbitrary event.
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“The Winter Wonderland is important because it ushers in the holiday season, but also because children get to see other children from all over the A.C. area, from Down Beach to Uptown,” Bailey says. “They get to have comradery with them. Also, children who may otherwise not have this kind of holiday get to experience a gift or just with play with other people their own age. It’s very important as far as healing for the city — it shows that the people of A.C. do care.”