CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A place with princesses, super heroes, horse drawn wagon rides and Santa Claus may sound like a sneak peek inside a child's imagination, but the Putnam County Parks & Recreation Commission has worked to make those dreams a reality this holiday season.This year's Yuletide in the Park 2013, sponsored by the PCPRC and the Putnam County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is a chance for families to celebrate together without the extra cost, according to Parks and Rec programs director Jamie Wright."We don't charge for these events," Wright said. "It's so we can give back to them during this busy time, when people don't have a lot of extra money to do a lot of things."The county's Friends of the Park organization and individuals sponsor the Yuletide events through donations. According to Wright, the commission's activities committee begins planning for the week months in advance.Remaining events for Yuletide in the Park 2013 include Christmas with the Princesses and Superheroes, held tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the Valley Park Community Center. Kids are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Disney princess or comic book superhero, and the event will feature volunteers dressed as Belle from "Beauty and the Beast," Snow White and Cinderella, as well as DC Comics' Batman and Marvel Comics' Spiderman.County commission president Joe Haynes, who sits on the Parks and Recreation activities committee, said the committee tries to create a schedule of events that appeals to a broad spectrum of people. Excluding the craft night held Tuesday, all of the park's events are free to attend, and are family oriented.
"One of the things we've strived for is to try to do things in the park that don't necessarily cost anything," he said. "For Yuletide, they do accept donations, and that helps defray the cost going forward, but we really like activities for kids to be free so that they're available to everybody."On Friday, Valley Park will feature a "PJ Party for Kids" from 6-9, and activities will include a screening of the movie "The Polar Express," story telling, a live nativity scene, a bonfire, wagon rides and a chance to meet Santa Claus. Saturday's events include the Rock Around the Christmas Tree Dance from 6:30-9:30 p.m., horse-drawn wagon rides from 6-9 p.m. and the Paws and Clause Rein-Dog Parade starting at 9:30 a.m.Haynes said the commission tries to alternate between Valley Park and Putnam County Park each year for various Yuletide events, but the majority are held at Valley Park because of its proximity to Hurricane, the largest city in the county, and other population centers."It's one of those things that, from year to year, you assess what works and what doesn't," Haynes said.The week will round out on Sunday with Sundaes with Santa from 1-3 p.m. Some events are newer than others, Haynes said, and the weeklong events have been going strong for nearly a decade - something Haynes attributes to their popularity."One year we had a pretty good snow on a Saturday night when we were having our Rock Around the Christmas Tree dance, and we thought it would kill us on attendance, and as it turned out, we had great attendance," Haynes said. "These things are becoming more popular; word of mouth spreads, and hopefully they'll continue to grow and grow."For more information about Yuletide in the Park or other events and opportunities offered by the Putnam County Parks and Recreation Commission, visit www.putnamcountyparks.net
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