For more than two hours, Hall A of the Atlantic City Convention Center will be unrecognizable. For the second year, holiday decor, Santa Claus and friends will help transform the space into the ultimate winter wonderland.
"It will be snowing indoors," promised Atlantic City Director of Health and Human Services Wilbur Banks, who is coordinating the event. "There's nothing around here like it for the children."
From 1 to 3:15 p.m. Dec. 15, Atlantic City's young residents and their families are invited to Winter Wonderland, a free afternoon of rides, arts and crafts, carnival games, face painting, balloons, magic shows and more.
Besides the opportunity to sit on Santa's lap for pictures and gift requests, children can meet other famous holiday characters.
"They will be able to meet Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman," Banks said.
Last December, the event, which is sponsored by the city of Atlantic City, The Atlantic City Free Public Library and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, brought in about 2,000 people from all over the area. This year, only residents of Atlantic City will be given tickets, in order to control the turnout.
The day is intended for children ages 3 to 12 from Atlantic City, Banks said.
"I think everyone will enjoy themselves," he said. "Every kid will be able to get what is planned for them."
The Winter Wonderland event originated as an alternative to the city's annual holiday parade. Based on the event's success last year, the decision to continue for a second year seemed obvious, Banks said.
"(The) response is overwhelming. …The kids really enjoyed it (last year), so we said we'd try it again and see if we can enhance it in some way," he said. " This time we have games, rides, the whole gamut."
Following Hurricane Sandy, Banks and the library find the holiday-themed event to come at an ideal time.
"I think it's a great opportunity for families to get together for a few hours for a carefree, fun afternoon," said Don Latham, public information officer at the Atlantic City Free Public Library. "Especially with what everyone has gone through with Hurricane Sandy. I think it's just an opportunity to just forget about that for a little bit and enjoy each other's company."
"I think it will be a good release," Banks said. "The time is perfect for the children of the city of Atlantic City."
Tickets for Winter Wonderland are required for admission and are distributed at City Hall, 1301 Bacharach Blvd., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Tickets are limited and will only be given to adults who have proof of Atlantic City residency.
For more information, call 609-347-5643.
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