BINGHAM — Last year so many children and parents signed up to attend a public Christmas party and see Santa that the event had to be moved from the American Legion hall into the larger Quimby Middle School gymnasium.

The Upper Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce is expecting an even bigger turnout this Sunday at the Christmas Party With Santa, Mrs. Claus & His Helpers and is planning for more than 400 children and their relatives.

Designed to bring Santa and gifts to children in central Somerset County, the party is for any child living in Solon, Bingham, Moscow, Caratunk, Pleasant Ridge Plantation, Concord Township or the Forks and West Forks plantations.

Santa will ride through Bingham in a firetruck and arrive at the school at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. From 1 to 3 p.m., children will be able to sit with Santa, have their photograph taken and will receive free hats and mittens, cookies and punch, and a Christmas bag filled with goodies, according to Cyndee Gagnon, president of the chamber.

“We’re having an excellent time. In fact, we have a lot of the community making mittens, a lot of people making cookies,” Gagnon said. “It’s a good community thing, and it’s for the kids.”

She estimated about 30 people in the area, plus the Ladies Auxiliary Post 99, are volunteering to bake, help set up the event, knit mittens or organize presents. She encouraged parents to sign up their children ahead of time by calling her at 672-4191.

The chamber is still taking donations, but so far it has collected about $2,200 from area residents and businesses, Gagnon said, such as Hight’s dealership, First Wind, St. Peter’s Altar Guild, the high school boosters program and the Bingham Fire Department. Other places, like Reny’s and E.W. Moore & Sons Pharmacy, gave discounts on purchased items.

“Almost every place that I go, someone is often more than willing to give a donation,” she said.

The chamber is also still accepting gift items, she said, describing how a woman recently dropped off 20 quilts to be given as presents.

About 150 children have signed up already, with more expected in the coming days. Last year more than 175 children participated.

“In the school system I know there are over 200, but then we have a lot of one, two, three, four-year-olds that don’t go to school yet,” Gagnon said.

The goal is “to help the surrounding community and so every child can come see Santa,” she said. Last year several children had never seen Santa before, which is common “because up here you have to travel an hour or two to get to the mall.”

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]

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