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Families are invited to kick off the Christmas season this Saturday at Santa's Workshop and Craft Bazaar

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Santa's Workshop and Craft Bazaar will once again be held at the Crook County Fairgrounds' indoor arena.

Crook County kids will again get a chance to play one of Santa's elves while parents check out a variety of holiday goods from local vendors.

Santa's Workshop and Craft Bazaar returns this Saturday to the Crook County Fairgrounds' indoor arena after taking a break in 2020 due to COVID restrictions. Taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the event will feature a variety of different craft booths for kids to visit and build potential Christmas gifts or holiday keepsakes. Meanwhile, visiting adults will be invited to peruse more than 20 vendors offering an assortment of local products.

"We will have free train rides for the kids," said Duane Garner, executive director of Crook County Parks and Recreation District. "We will have pictures with Santa, which we have historically done." Garner added that the local Lions Club will once again provide lunch for purchase.

The Santa's Workshop event is a longtime annual staple for the parks district. But in 2019, they decided to uproot it from its traditional home at Carey Foster Hall and move it to the indoor arena to allow for a larger event.

"We wanted to make this event an annual fundraiser for the Parks and Recreation Foundation, which supports youth scholarships for program fees for sports or any Happy Healthy Hearts program for youth or adults," Garner said. "They also help with park projects."

The expanded event was a success in 2019 and would have continued in 2020 had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions forcing the district to cancel it. Though the pandemic continues, gathering rules are less stringent and the move to the larger indoor arena provides the added benefit of giving people more room to social distance.

"We were so packed in Carey Foster Hall," Garner said. "There would have been no ability for people to keep their distance."

Event organizers, led this year by recreation coordinator Andrea Weaver, have retained most of the Santa's Workshop aspects, where kids come and make different crafts. But this year, the district is asking businesses to sponsor different craft booths, which helps the district raise funds and pay for crafting materials.

"Then we have incorporated a craft bazaar, knowing that it would be kind of a fun addition to that event, where we bring vendors in and they have Christmas-themed products," Garner said. "So, there will be something for the adults as well as the kids."

The look of the event will also get a festive boost. The district has partnered with Sheena York, owner of Firefly Events, to decorate and enhance the holiday atmosphere.

Traditionally, Santa's Workshop has been scheduled earlier in November, but this year it will take place on the same day as several other Christmas events in Prineville. The annual lighted Christmas parade will take place later in the evening, then the Christmas in the Pines drive-thru light display will open at the fairgrounds, as will the Grimes Christmas Scene.

As a result, it will join those events in kicking off the Christmas season in Crook County.

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