Santa’s Wonderland thrills Grand Bahama residents

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The highly-anticipated Christmas In The Bahamas: Santa’s Wonderland event kicked off on December 16 at the YMCA, bringing some Christmas magic to local children and adults alike. Hosted by Bass Pro Shops in partnership with Convoy of Hope, the official opening of the four-day Christmas-themed event attracted hundreds for an evening
jam-packed with thrills and surprises. Santa’s Wonderland lived up to its name, transforming parts of the YMCA playing field into a Christmas village complete with real snow and the opportunity to meet with Santa Claus. The holiday wonderland also included a Ferris wheel, swing carousel, three-lane fun slide, kayak pool, archery range, bowling lanes, and giant inflatable bounce houses and slides.

But the excitement did not stop there; attendees were treated to a skydiving demonstration, live entertainment, a fireworks display and a Junkanoo rush-out. Guests were able to enjoy a free, traditionally Bahamian holiday meal. And upon leaving the event, each person received a gift, whether toys for children or groceries for adults. Bass Pro Shops Founder Johnny Morris said the Christmas event on Grand Bahama dwarfed the annual Santa’s Wonderland event held at his U.S. stores, and purposely so. Morris said his team wanted to ensure local children would make magical memories to last a lifetime after what has
been a challenging few months.

“To see these kids smiling, to see them in Santa’s Wonderland, it makes me very happy. It’s all I’ve been dreaming about,” Morris said. “We’ve never done anything quite like this. So, I’m very grateful to all the volunteers. Trying to do something like this, it takes everyone helping each other and reaching out. If you didn’t have that kind of team work, nothing would happen.” In addition to the partnership between Bass Pro Shops and Convoy of Hope, the event received support from Coca-Cola, FedEx, Kid Casters, Tree House Kids, Tyson Foods, Bahamas Paradise Cruise Lines and a large number of anglers who generously donated to the cause. On Grand Bahama, Pastor Robert Lockhart and his wife Rochelle teamed up with the YMCA and
government agencies such as the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (BMOTA), Office of the Prime Minister, Bahamas Customs and Immigration and the National Emergency Management Agency to facilitate various logistical requirements.

A team of over 200 volunteers, the majority of whom travelled from the U.S., will be on every night of the event to assist with parking, distribution of food and gifts, and manning the rides. Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator Kwasi Thompson brought remarks at the opening of the event, deeming it “the biggest, most wonderful children’s party in the history of our country.” Thompson extended heartfelt thanks to Morris, Bass Pro Shops, Convoy of Hope and volunteers for bringing some much-needed cheer to the island.

“They have been an inspiration for us,” Thompson said of the event’s organisers. “For all of the Grand Bahamians who have been discouraged. For all of the Grand Bahamians who have wondered ‘why us?’ For all of the Grand Bahamians who believe this is a difficult time; I want to say to our partners that they have provided an awesome, God-inspired event for us tonight.” Steven Johnson, general manager for the BMOTA Grand Bahama office, said he expects Grand Bahama to benefit greatly from the near-weeklong event. “We have about 250 volunteers that came out between Bass Pro Shops and Convoy of Hope,” Johnson said.

“These persons are here staying in hotels, dining and experiencing the island, so their presence here is a double blessing. They’re creating some economic development for the island and also giving back to the students. Some of these kids, this will unfortunately be the only gift they will get for Christmas. So, it was great to see the smiles on their faces as they enjoyed the rides and received their toys. I watched the parents as they got their grocery bags; it was very touching. This was a wonderful event.” Santa’s Wonderland concludes on Thursday, December 19. Coordinators hope to host 20,000 children over the course of the four-day event.

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