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Craft mart keeps philanthropy in tact with annual Santa and his Reindeer event

BY: Kimberly Snickles, Cheektowaga Source | November 19, 2012

“Our holiday events were always designed to focus on children, and with that focus, we from the beginning have not looked at Santa as a profit center. Visiting Santa, visiting the elf, the reindeer, have always been free,” said President of Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart John Kavulich.

Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart, 3366 Union Road, Cheektowaga is gearing up for their annual “Santa and his Reindeer” event, and when they say free, they mean free. Started by Kavulich’s father more than 20 years ago, the event begins 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 24 and continues every Saturday and Sunday before Christmas. Children, grown ups, and even pets have the opportunity to meet Santa and his friends, and get their picture taken, at no charge whatsoever.

“We will have a line that will be 50 yards long sometimes, no matter what weather,” said Kavulich. “It can be raining, wind, wet snow, and families will still be out waiting patiently to meet Santa.”

Bright and early in the morning, children will gather inside of the store with their eyes lit up and smiles wide, waiting for jolly old Santa to come walking by. When they hear a bell jingling in the back of the store, their excitement rises as Santa greets them with his signature “Ho, Ho, Ho.”

Then Santa and Mrs. Claus head outside to the rare 1949 29-ton caboose, where families can take a photo. If families do not have their own camera, Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart will take a photo in high definition and put it up on their website, so folks have access to it. The business even puts the photos on their monitor, so people can view them in the store during the holidays.

Live reindeer are outside of the store for children to visit and pet, and the fence that the reindeer are in is specially designed so that small children can see through the posts, without obstruction.

“The reindeer live in Hamburg during the year and then they come here, and we usually have a baby if one is available,” said Kavulich. “The fence is in a half circle so that everyone can see, and sometimes the caretakers will have little treats for the children to give to the reindeer.”

The event is also an annual destination for those who do not live in the area. Kavulich said people from Canada, Pennsylvania, Syracuse, and all over, also make it a point to stop by the event ever year.

“There’s a lot of work but it’s an enjoyable amount of work,” he said. “We take great care; we start planning every year in the early summer, but in our calendar of events, we already have it scheduled for next year.”

The business keeps on giving, with their annual “Breakfast with Santa.” Inside of the store, there is a red box where people can enter to have an exclusive breakfast with Santa at Altons. The winner is a family of about 5 to 6 people and then Santa meets the family for breakfast before the craft mart opens. The family gets to order whatever they want, and then Santa and his elf bring the children gifts.

“We’ve had some great stories, and the families that have won are families that went through tremendous financial difficulties. Some families have never been able to afford to go see Santa anywhere, so there is a great measure of satisfaction when the winner can benefit, when they need it the most.”

For more information about Niagara Hobby and Craft Mart, visit www.niagarahobby.com or call 681-1666.

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