Winter Wonderland event brings families to GVSU

By Jackie Smith | 12/9/12 5:41pm

Crowds of children packed into the Grand Valley State University fieldhouse with their parents on Saturday to attend the first ever Winter Wonderland event.

The Winter Wonderland event was located on the east side of the fieldhouse arena. Lights were strung along the windows, and a young woman in a Santa hat sat at a table, greeting people as they entered.

As people entered, they received a ticket for the two-hour event, which could also be used to attend the back-to-back men’s and women’s basketball games against Ohio Dominican University at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.

Children got the chance to get their picture taken with Santa and with Louie the Laker, and to enjoy free milk and cookies.

“The Winter Wonderland event is a marketing promotion. We do promotions all the time. Today is Winter Wonderland, so Santa came,” said Doug Lipinski, Associate director of athletics for marketing. “This is actually the first time Santa came, so fans could come get pictures with Santa and Louie the Laker.”

Jaime Smoes, a resident of Coopersville, said she came to the Winter Wonderland event so her niece, Alaina, could see Santa and Louie.

“We got the e-mail for the event and came out. Alaina is more excited to see Louie than Santa,” Smoes said.

Though the photos with Santa and Louie might have been the main attraction for the kids, many families stayed for the free basketball games.

Michael Huner, a Grand Rapids resident, brought his sons Tiago and Juan to the event to see Santa as well.

“We came to see Santa and catch the double header basketball game,” Huner said. “I was also motivated by the fact that the game was free.”

The event was a success, bringing many families out and offering ways for people to get involved in the GVSU community.

Kevin Vanderson, GVSU senior and intern for athletic marketing explained that the Winter Wonderland event was directed toward kids to get more families to go the basketball games.

A lot of work was put into setting up this event, and some local companies helped out as well: Meijer sponsored the activities, Country Dairy sponsored the milk provided and Bosch’s Christmas tree farm provided all the real trees at the event.

“We had to get trees from Bosch’s Christmas tree farm, and we had to get a Santa Claus. We had to set up a floor plan for the event,” Vanderson said. “We also got posters and distributed them to elementary schools in the area to get more people to come to the event,“

Families from all around the area attended, and many children left happy that they got to see Santa, as well as Louie – the free cookies and milk probably didn’t hurt either.

Hopefully Santa will decide to visit Grand Valley again next year.

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