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Legion Children's Christmas party delights youngsters

Reed, 4, and Devin, 1, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Children's Christmas Party. (Photos by Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

The Park Rapids American Legion was packed Sunday with toddlers, children, parents and grandparents.

The Children's Christmas Party, a long-standing tradition sponsored by the American Legion and Auxiliary, provides a free meal of hot dogs, chips and pop to families and gifts to area children, ages 10 and under. It's a tradition carried on for more than 30 years.

Santa, portrayed by Jerry Benham, and Mrs. Claus (Mary Safratowich) handed out the gifts.

The Legion bought all the toys locally — from sleds to dolls to tool sets.

"We have a couple women who buy gifts every year," said Auxiliary President Linda Swanson. "They do very well with it. It was very well-received."

It costs several thousand dollars to buy the age-appropriate toys, noted Auxiliary member Lynn Spilman.

More than 200 families attended Sunday's event. There wasn't a single hot dog to spare. Swanson said they plan for 225 meals and there were no leftovers.