Children in the north end of Southington enjoyed a special visit from Santa Clause Sunday morning as the popular December visitor stopped in at the Engine Co. 5 pancake breakfast.
The Southington Fire Department's annual "All-U-Can-Eat" pancake breakfast took place today between 8 and 11 a.m. at the at 72 River St., which included attendance by Santa Claus to listen to Christmas gift requests from neighborhood children.
According to Capt. Albert Urso, Jr., the Southington Fire Department has run Christmas events and visits from Santa since 1978, with the pancake breakfast having been introduced 15 years ago. Seating for the breakfast cost $5, with children under 12 eating for free. Urso said that the department made about $230 from the event in 2010, and hoped to meet a similar figure this year.
"It's never been a big moneymaker," he said. "It's more for the neighborhood kids."
Urso noted that the fire department's unique location in the community helps to faciliate this, with the fire house being on the corner of a residential street.
An attendant bake sale was held next to the tables in the garage, with miniature apple pies and bags of cookies sold for a dollar each. According to Melanie Roper, the sale's proceeds will go towards the Southington Soup Kitchen this year rather than auxiliary supplies due to its greater need.
The breakfast has become a holiday tradition for many of the families who attended this year as they bring their children to see Santa and compose letters to him at the arts and crafts tables set up in the fire house's lounge. The Drechsler family, for example, has been attending since their oldest son Jacob was a baby.
"It's good food, good fun, and we get to see Santa," Diana Drechsler said.
Gifts requested of Santa this year ranged from toy trucks to actual cars, the latter made on behalf of one visitor's grandmother. iPod Touches were on the lists of several children attending the breakfast, as was the Nintendo DSi video game system and software. Simpler gifts included Nathan Mulhall's request for bones for his family's dogs, which he had also asked for in a letter to Santa written for school as part of a Make-a-Wish foundation fundraiser.
"We've never done this to make a fortune," said Albert Urso, Sr., one of the firemen overseeing the event. "It's all for the kids."