By Demi M. Cruz
MWR Marketing Assistant
Children and families dashed through Naval Air Station Jacksonville (NAS Jax) Patriots Grove Dec. 1 for the annual holiday celebration.
Activities included winter-themed arts and crafts, bounce houses, an ice slide, snow pit, train rides, photos with Santa, face painting, inflatable activities and balloon artists.
A special appearance by Elf on the Shelf characters kept children mindful of their actions and excited to take pictures. Navy Band Southeast kept the crowd entertained with a unique rock-themed performance of pop culture music and the seasonal holiday favorites.
NAS Jax Commanding Officer Capt. Sean Haley addressed the massive crowd of people expressing his gratitude for Community Recreation Director Kristin Riddle and Community Recreation Assistant Brittany Brown for their efforts in hosting such an exciting event. Haley then led the countdown to the lighting of the tree and immediately following, the snow began to fall as children and families jumped and danced near the stage.
"I heard many people say that attendance was even higher than last year. We had well over 1,000 people in attendance," remarked Riddle, who coordinated the event for the first time.
Hundreds of military families also received free Christmas trees donated by the Christmas Spirit Foundation's Trees for Troops program. Trees for Troops has provided more than 175,000 Christmas trees to military families and troops in the United States and overseas since 2005.
"I really appreciate this program donating free trees to the military," said LS2 Jacqueline Jefferson of Patrol Squadron 16. "My son and I will enjoy decorating this tree for the holidays."
On-site sponsors included VyStar Credit Union and USAA.
Neither NAS Jacksonville, MWR nor Jax Air News or any part of the federal government, officially endorses any company or sponsor or their products or services.