DOVER — For all the children who dream of sugarplums and pogo sticks, Santa plans to stop by the McConnell Center before Christmas.
Members of Dover Youth to Youth have been busy preparing for his arrival for the 7th annual Santa’s Castle, which is sponsored by radio station WTSN and The Bay. It is scheduled to run from 2-6:30 p.m. for the next two weekends to raise funds for anti-drug programs in the city.
Santa’s Castle, which is designed for children 9 and under, can be found via Door 7 on St. Thomas Street. Parking is available in the lot behind the Dover Public Library and on the street by the District Court. It costs $6 per child, $3 per adult and up to $20 for families.
On Wednesday, a few children were able to stop by during a rehearsal session, which allowed volunteers a chance to practice their roles as snowmen, reindeer and elves.
Two of the visitors — James, 4, and Lily, 2, Travis, both of Dover — enjoyed decorating cookies, coloring festive pictures, hearing holiday music, making ornaments, seeing Christmas movies and meeting Santa, who asked what he could try and bring this year.
Lily hoped for a dollhouse, but James asked for a toy garbage truck, a snowy Christmas and another baby sister, even though their new brother — Levi — was born four months ago.
Santa, who wore the suit his mother made for him, promised to do what he could.
As many of the volunteers were helping out for the first time, the handful of children who stopped helped them prepare for the hundreds of visitors who will stop by this weekend. By then, it will run like a “well-oiled machine” according to Stephanie Retrosi, who is overseeing the event for Youth to Youth.
“This is so much fun and the kids do a great job for the community,” Retrosi said.
John Nash, 12, of Dover, said it’s a lot of work to decorate the many rooms, find a festive costume — usually with green or red leggings — and prepare to guide visitors through the season.
Jenni Dudley, 11, of Dover, who helped prepare frosting, candy and cookies, said she’s a little nervous and excited as she wants to make everything special, like she remembers.
“I came here every year when I was little,” Dudley said.
Jordan Schneider, 15, of Dover, said she loves working with little kids, especially since they still believe and are full of surprises.
“I had a little girl who once asked (Santa) for a unicorn and a pink flying car,” Schneider recalled.
Dana Mitchell, coordinator for Dover Youth to Youth, said a lot of hard work goes into helping make this a special event for families and offering something for everyone. He added participants can take part in as much as they want.
“On the weekend, there are lines and lines and lines (of people),” Mitchell said. “It becomes magical here.”
Mitchell said about 150 to 200 people stop by each night. He added it takes about 30 minutes to navigate all of the activities at the event, but some people just stop by for a photo with Santa.
“Each year the crafts change and we improve the decorations and costumes, but for the most part we are going to stick with our successful formula,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said there will be a toy soldier, a giant teddy bear, the gingerbread man, about 25 elves and live music from the Winter Parking Band.
Dover Youth to Youth is an organization made up of middle and high school students who meet after school to conduct activities and events that promote a drug-free life style. Youth to Youth is coordinated by the Dover Police Department and it is a component of the Police Department’s Community Outreach Bureau.
For information, visit http://www.dovery2y.org/ or call the Dover Police Department’s Community Outreach Bureau at 516-3274.