A hearty greeting from atop the staircase in the Embassy Theatre ballroom Sunday morning joined the chorus of voices singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” to children's delight.
Santa and Mrs. Claus paused on the landing between the sixth and seventh floors to address the families seated at tables below for the downtown venue's annual Breakfast with Santa.
“That is some beautiful singing,” Santa said before requesting another tune, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
For the third consecutive morning, Santa wove his way through the ballroom to greet each family, asking the children if they've been naughty or nice and posing for photographs.
Tiffany Rogan of Fort Wayne stepped aside as Santa posed with her 6-year-old daughter, Natika. The girl – who put a Barbie camper and a Barbie dollhouse on her wish list – was ready to see Santa at 6 a.m., said Rogan, who also brought her 12-year-old granddaughter, Malaniah Timmons, to the event.
Rogan said she wanted the girls to experience the tradition.
“They were very excited,” she said, adding they planned to fit in more Fort Wayne holiday traditions that day – the Festival of Gingerbread at the History Center and the Fantasy of Lights at Franke Park.
Although the venue can accommodate about 300 people, the Embassy capped attendance for each of the three breakfasts at 150 people to create a more intimate environment that makes it possible for the Jolly Old Elf to visit with each child, said Barb Richards, chief engagement officer.
Tickets for the Thanksgiving weekend event annually go on sale Nov. 1, she said, adding families often come every year until their children outgrow it.
“It's a big grandparent thing,” Richards said.
Along with a buffet breakfast, the event included a Festival of Trees tour and a performance of “Elf Jr.” by the Fort Wayne Youtheatre. Students from the Embassy's summer musical theater workshop added to the festive atmosphere by donning green and red elf costumes.
Kelly and Zayne Cole of Auburn brought their twin daughters, Corallea and Paisley, for the first time. At 4 ˝ years old, the girls are old enough to appreciate Santa, their mother said.
“They loved it,” Kelly Cole added.
Santa and Mrs. Claus collected letters from children before they left and marveled at how big the children had grown.
“Santa and I are so excited to have you here today,” Mrs. Claus told the children gathered in front of her for a reading of “'Twas The Night Before Christmas.” “You make Christmas so special for Santa and I.”
Festival of Treesto end Wednesday
In its 37th year, the Festival of Trees continues through Wednesday with a record-high 71 trees. The event is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Embassy Theatre Foundation.
Hours are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
Admission is $10 for ages 13 and older, $5 for ages 1 to 12 and free for children younger than 1.
Go to www.fwembassytheatre.org/festival-of-trees for information.