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Festive Farmington Holiday Gathering
She may be just 18 months old, but young Keira Simko was back for a second visit with Santa Claus at Friday night's Community Christmas Party in Farmington, hosted at the Farmington firehouse and put on by a coalition of community groups.

"She was really little last year," mom Belinda Simko shared as Keira enjoyed nibbling on a cookie and waiting in line to visit the man in red. "I'm hoping she doesn't scream."

The community gathering features holiday music, plenty of refreshments, a time to catch up on the news by visiting with friends and, of course, the much anticipated arrival of Santa Claus on the back of a fire truck.

When the siren sounds, children rush outside the firehouse to watch the approaching vehicle, with Santa waving from his spot atop the truck and youngsters waiting eagerly to greet him.

"I love seeing the kids, all their smiles," said Janet Weston, enjoying the evening with friends. "The parents seem to have a good time, too."

Weston's father was a volunteer with the Farmington Fire Department for years, so she is familiar with the annual holiday gathering.

"It's festive, very festive," agreed Pam Thoza.

Santa greeted a long line of children waiting to share their Christmas wishes with him and a trio of young volunteers, Luis Estrada, 11, Austin Cowdery, 10, and Stephen 'Bubba' Mendez, 7, suited up in elf hats to help hand out the gifts to children.

Farmington Fire Chief Conni Bailey said the last couple of days leading up to the event are a flurry of activity, with the purchasing and wrapping of gifts for the children, getting enough film to take pictures with Santa and the baking of dozens of cookies. The latter duty typically falls to Bailey and her daughter, Kristine Kalebaugh, who spent the better part of two days mixing and baking this year, in between responding to the occasional fire call.

"It's an annual ritual," agreed Bailey. "We do all the baking, we've been doing it since she (Kristine) was in high school."

Bailey also thanked Bob Toy at Big Boy Market for donating all the punch for the evening and said Heck of a Deal also donated some gift items for the giveaway.

Any leftover gifts are donated to a local Toys for Tots drive so they don't go unused, said Bailey.

Volunteer Nancy Humphrey, 12, has been attending the event since she was in kindergarten and this year was helping coordinate the photos with Santa.

"I want to be a firefighter when I'm older," she admitted.

Bailey said some years there has been rain, some years have been bitterly cold, but the crowd seems to turn out, nonetheless.

"There's no RSVP, just come if you want," she said. "We always plan for 150 kids and sometimes we get close to that."

The annual Community Christmas Party is sponsored by the Farmington Fire Department, Farmington 4-H, Chamber of Commerce, Odd Fellows and the Farmington General Store.

"When we first started it, it was just the department," Bailey said of the early years of the event. "The nice thing now is that everybody helps out."