Toitoi – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Events will celebrate its first Christmas since reopening in style, with Santa’s Grotto, 10 trees and more fairy lights than you can shake a candy cane at. And the best part is the Hastings community can pop into Toitoi to meet the big man himself on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday afternoons from November 30 till December 19.

Toitoi Kaiwhakahaere/Manager Megan Peacock-Coyle says while meeting Santa isn’t a new concept, Toitoi wanted to make it community-focused and as inclusive as possible.

“Often when tamariki can meet Santa, it’s in a commercial setting and their parents have to pay for photos or buy something to take part. We wanted to keep it free,” she says.

Local kids will be able to post letters to Santa and meet the big man himself, while parents can take photos, or they can buy a polaroid for $2 (which covers the cost of the film).

Santa will meet local whānau from 1pm till 4pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays throughout December. He is also welcoming tamariki to his low-sensory grotto from noon until 12.45pm on December 5 and 12, and from 9am till 9.45am on December 19. With no music, low lights and no queues, bookings are essential, Megan says. There will also be open low-sensory sessions from 4pm till 5pm on December 7 and 19.

“As far as we know, this is the first time a low-sensory Santa has been on offer in Hawke’s Bay. While there are limited no queue spots, we’ve also put on a couple of open low-sensory sessions for sensory-sensitive tamariki who can handle crowds. The grotto is in a wide, open space, within Functions on Hastings, so there’s plenty of room for whānau to spread out and relax, if they need to.”

She says in keeping with their community focus, there will also be a Giving Tree for Hastings Women’s Refuge, so anyone coming in to meet Santa (or just popping by to see the fun) can share the aroha with our community members who may need a little more support.

“The whānau at the Refuge have often come out of very traumatic circumstances, so we wanted to bring as much joy and happiness into their lives as possible this Christmas. We simply ask that those donating think about these whānau when choosing what to donate. If you’re donating long-life food, consider what you might like to eat when you’ve had a hard time – tea and chocolates, biscuits and pre-prepared or easy to prepare meals with a long shelf-life are all great options.”

Please keep all gifts unwrapped, clothing items plain (no brands, images or red) and gifts for men and boys are also welcome (but please no toy weapons). If donating long-life food, please ensure its use-by date is later than March 2021.

Megan says decorating Toitoi and having Santa around for the community would not have been possible without the support of Hastings’ District Council and the funding they’ve supplied through the Arts, Culture & Events Recovery Plan.

“Christmas is the perfect time to come into Toitoi and spend some quality time with your whānau, friends and Santa himself.”

Meet Santa at Toitoi (entrance on Hastings St) from 1pm till 4pm on the following days:
November 30, December 1, 5, 7, 8, 12, 14, 15, and 19.



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