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Santa, barnyard animals delight Valley kids at MetroParks farm

CANFIELD — For Alex and Eric Kennedy, this Christmas will mean seeing a flurry of family members. The first visit was not with someone who is a relative — but he is universally known.

“There are eight grandchildren on his side, so it’s going to be a madhouse,” Alex said in describing the growing number of relatives on her husband’s side of the family, which includes three babies who were born in a two-month span between last August and October.

One of those infants is their 2-month-old son, Hudson Kennedy, who seemed relaxed during his visit with Santa Claus in his red sleigh.

St. Nick was the main attraction at the annual Santa’s Winter Barn gathering Sunday at the Mill Creek MetroParks Farm, 7574 Columbiana Canfield Road.

During the free, three-hour family-friendly gathering, children had an opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap, converse with him and make known their gift requests. The occasions also allowed their parents and others to take pictures of the youngsters with Santa in his sleigh.

St. Nick also exhibited an unconventional side, because he brought with him additional animals besides the traditional reindeer. Those included a donkey, a cow, turkeys, a pig, a llama and chickens, noted Brenda Markley, Mill Creek MetroParks’ agriculture and education manager.

The kids weren’t the only ones Sunday with Christmas wish lists.

“We like zip-up sleepers; we like teething toys” and diapers, Alex said in listing some of the practical gifts she and Eric could use for their infant.

Hudson’s mother added that she hopes Santa Claus will show a little extra generosity by bringing toys for Roscoe, the family’s 7-year-old border collie / Labrador retriever mix.

“We’re going to do lots of family stuff and enjoy our little guy,” Ashley Hopper of New Middletown said about her holiday plans that include her son, Theodore Hopper, 3 months, who also got acquainted with St. Nick on Sunday before the infant met his first reindeer.

Christmas also will mean a busy day with multiple family members and relatives, added Theodore’s father, Joel Hopper.

Before conversing with and reading aloud his wish list to Santa while on his lap, Theo Sapp, 6, of Youngstown, had done a bit of homework by looking through a catalog and assembling a list of items he wants, with help from his father, Tom Sapp.

“I said, ‘I got a lot of stuff on my list,'” the C.H. Campbell Elementary School kindergarten student said he told Santa Claus.

Those include Legos toys, Nerf guns and a set of Hot Wheels die-cast toy cars, Theo’s mother, Krista Sapp, added later.

Before Santa makes his official stop at the Sapp household, though, Theo will be making an appearance in a children’s play Dec. 16 at Bethel Lutheran Church in Boardman, where the family attends worship. Those in the play have recently begun to rehearse their lines and song parts, Krista continued.

“He’ll be singing for sure,” she said.

Carol Truitt and Judy Hornickel, both Mill Creek MetroParks volunteers, oversaw an activity in which many children made self-stick tree ornaments that included snowmen, Christmas stockings and penguins. They were given self-contained art kits, Truitt said.

Santa’s Winter Barn also marked the final event of the year at the farm, which will reopen April 5 with a Farm Animal Baby Shower, Markley said.

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