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Santa delights children with presents at Braden auditorium

Published 12:06am Wednesday, December 25, 2013
BRITTNEY LOHMILLER / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — 4-year-olds Jakel King, left, and Jamel King greet Santa inside the Braden School auditorium Christmas Eve during the Santa Claus Parade. The Children’s Christmas Tree Fund donated 350 bags of toys for boys and girls between the ages of 1 and 10.
BRITTNEY LOHMILLER / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — 4-year-olds Jakel King, left, and Jamel King greet Santa inside the Braden School auditorium Christmas Eve during the Santa Claus Parade. The Children’s Christmas Tree Fund donated 350 bags of toys for boys and girls between the ages of 1 and 10.

NATCHEZ — Seth Hayes clutched a brown paper bag with both hands as he struggled to keep it from dragging on the floor of Braden Auditorium.

The bag filled with Christmas presents was almost as big as the 4 year old, but was no match for Hayes’ Christmas spirit as he walked out of the auditorium with a smile from ear to ear.

BRITTNEY LOHMILLER / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Rahheem Nickelson, 6, gives Santa a hug and wishes him a “Merry Christmas” inside the Braden School auditorium Christmas Eve during the Santa Claus Parade. The Children’s Christmas Tree Fund donated 350 bags of toys for boys and girls between the ages of 1 and 10.
BRITTNEY LOHMILLER / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Rahheem Nickelson, 6, gives Santa a hug and wishes him a “Merry Christmas” inside the Braden School auditorium Christmas Eve during the Santa Claus Parade. The Children’s Christmas Tree Fund donated 350 bags of toys for boys and girls between the ages of 1 and 10.

“I got to see Santa,” Hayes said excitedly before taking a peek in the bag to see what treasures he received. “The power tool set is my favorite.”

Hayes was among the 350 children ages 1-10 who received gifts Tuesday morning at the auditorium during the annual Santa Claus parade.

The parade, which started at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, took members of the Santa Claus Committee throughout several neighborhoods in Natchez, where they shared candy with those lining the streets.

The Santa Claus Committee got its start in Natchez in 1928, when a group of businessmen decided they wanted to ensure less-fortunate local children enjoyed a merry Christmas.

The committee exists only for charitable purposes, and members pay yearly dues to participate in the committee’s annual parade, which is always on Christmas Eve.

The committee members escorted the man selected to be Santa Claus this year to Braden, where he was welcomed with a rousing applause by the children and parents eagerly awaiting his arrival.

Chants of “Ho, ho, ho” and “Merry Christmas” echoed throughout the walls of the auditorium as the man in red took his seat in the middle of the auditorium and began passing out more than 350 bags of toys to the children.

The bags, which were divided by gender and age group, contained a variety of toys and treats, ranging from Barbie dolls for the girls to an 18-wheeler truck set for the boys.

For Kentrell Hoggatt, 7, the day could not have come sooner.

“He’s been looking forward to this for the past few weeks,” Chris Hoggatt, Kentrell’s grandfather, said. “We got up at 5:30 a.m. (Tuesday) to do some family stuff, and since then he’s just been asking, ‘What time is it? What time is it?’ counting down the minutes.”

Kentrell bounced down the stairs of the auditorium stage after seeing Santa before running back to his seat to begin rummaging through his bag.

Kentrell’s face lit up with excitement as he pulled out the first few toys, a Tonka truck set and Spiderman book.

But it was a toy helicopter that made his day complete.

“Wow,” Kentrell said as he looked over every square inch of the toy box before asking his grandparents one simple question. “Can I open it now?”

 

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