Santa Parade, Winterfest on Sunday

ST. MARYS — A local festival and parade returns this weekend, welcoming Santa into town.

Winterfest and the Santa parade will take place on Sunday, officially kicking off the holiday season in St. Marys.

Winterfest, which is put on by the St. Marys Optimist Club, will start first — beginning with a popular winter-season activity.

“We’ll have ice skating from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.,” Optimist Winterfest Chair Virg Bertke said.

She noted the ice skating was a new event last year.

“It was new last year, and the kids had an absolute blast,” Bertke said. “The kids had so much fun.”

The rink, which is made from a synthetic sheet, will be set up in Memorial Park.

“We’ll have skates available during Winterfest,” Bertke noted.

The next event will be one that has kicked off the holiday season for more than 20 years.

“The parade will be at 4 p.m.,” Bertke said.

The parade, which is organized by the St. Marys Area Chamber of Commerce and features the arrival of Santa Claus, has been around for approximately 23 years, Chamber Director Kelly Kill noted.

“We invite Santa to sit in the house during the holiday season,” Kill added.

Sunday will feature the first Santa hours in his house in Memorial Park. He will be there from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.

“The Chamber also puts together bags that Santa will give to the children,” Kill said.

Following Winterfest, Santa will be in his house the following dates: from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9; from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 10; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16; from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18; from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22; from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 23.

“The live nativity will start at 4:30,” Bertke said. “From 5 p.m. to 6:30, we’ll have live entertainment and more ice skating, and then there will be another live nativity at 6:30 p.m.”

The live nativity, which is put on by Living Hope Assembly of God, has been a Winterfest staple for many years.

“If you’ve never seen the live nativity, it’s definitely worth going to,” Bertke said. “There’s animals, everything. Randy (McKinney) and his crew do a wonderful job.”

Winterfest, she added, is all local.

“The live nativity is from a church here, for the entertainment, all the acts are local people,” Bertke said.

She noted the Optimists’ ultimate goal is to help children, and Winterfest does just that.

“The Optimists are for the kids, and we feel this is a great children’s event,” Bertke said, noting there will also be refreshments available. “Everything is for the kids.”

She added Winterfest will go on rain or snow.