Santa arrived at the centres in style driven in a 1914 Rolls Royce 40/50 ‘Alpine Eagle’ Continental, from the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu with cheers from the crowds.
Santa and his helpers, accompanied by seasonal music from local marching bands, then prepared to meet the first of the hundreds of families who have booked to visit the winter wonderland, and visit the Stewarts real reindeer who have enjoyed a relaxing year off in their field.
Susie Stewart, who manages the Christmas events and displays at the centres, said that the recruitment of the large number of elves is vital.
“They meet and greet the families and accompany them through the magical winter wonderland towards Santa’s home. Here, they help Santa select presents for the boys and girls and will appear in photos taken by proud parents,” said Susie Stewart.
“We need the high number of elves, who apply from adverts as early as in September, to help cover the constant flow of children daily between now and Christmas Eve.They help Santa to keep going so he can save his magic powers for delivering presents to everyone’s home on Christmas Eve.”
At least six elves from previous Christmases have continued to be employed at Stewarts and now work hard to prepare the splendid Christmas departments that have already been opened with a charity preview evening where many of the visitors enjoyed their first Christmas dinner with all the festive trimmings.
June Borley from Milford on Sea has been an elf at Stewarts for four Christmases in a row.
This year Santa had a special young elf accompanying him; 10-year-old Alex Coombes from Hordle enjoyed meeting the crowds after riding in the vintage Rolls Royce.