MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Marines, sailors and their families gathered at Del Valle Field for a chance to talk to Santa Claus and get some goodies during the annual Winter Festival, sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services and the United Service Organizations, Dec. 7, 2013.
The event featured games such as strongman and paintball, pony rides, face-painting and a toy give-away. However, increasingly fast and sandy winds quickly put the event at risk. Within an hour, it was ultimately closed down, leaving its attendees saddened as they watched tents and booths being closed down.
“It was sad to see it shut down. We come every year,” said Patricia O’Toole, discipline teacher, Onaga Elementary. “At least the kids still got their toys.” O’Toole understood the danger that the strong winds were imposing, and understood the decision to call it off.
Although the weather was bad enough to stop the Winter Festival, it couldn’t break the Combat Center’s holiday spirit. Attendees of the festival reconvened at the Marine Corps Exchange, where Santa Claus and carolers from the Select Choir at Twentynine Palms High School were keeping the holiday alive.
“MCCS kept it going by having it here,” O’Toole said. “At least for the kids, they kept it alive.”
In one area of the Exchange, Santa Claus himself was open to have children sit on his lap and request a Christmas gift.
“I'm happy I got to see Santa,” said Logan Thoummavong, 5, son of Pfc. Manothong Thoummavong, student, Marine Corps Communications-Electronics School. “I asked him for a Nerf gun for Christmas.”
Near the entrance, the student choir gracefully sang such carols as We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Here Comes Santa Claus, and Jingle Bell Rock as Combat Center patrons looked on.
“This choir is really nice,” said Sgt. Melody Coppock, unit defense maintenance technician, MCCES. “It’s unfortunate they had to cancel, but anything counts to put a smile on a little kid’s face.”
The choir was delighted to make an appearance for service members and their families.
“A lot of our kids are military kids, and the base has been extremely supportive,” said Michael Mayes, music director, Twentynine Palms High School. “We love to be able to have the opportunity to do what we can.”
With spirits lifted for the day, children, with candy canes and photos of Santa Claus in hand, excitedly departed the Exchange to await the return of Santa on Christmas Eve.