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Santa Claus moving operations to Rincon

RINCON — Santa Claus is pulling up his North Pole stakes and heading to Rincon. He and his elves will set up shop at First Baptist Church on Dec. 15.

"We are turning our kids' building into the North Pole," said Lori Sowers, the director of the church's Kidz Connection Ministries for newborns through fifth grade.

Santa's new residence will resemble his old one. Rincon's winter wonderland will feature artificial snow, snow cones and ample supplies of hot chocolate.

"It's a free community event," Sowers said. "The idea is for families to make memories, unplug and be together."

Memories can be made in multiple ways, Sowers explained.

"We will have reindeer games, which are the winter carnival type of games, photos ops with Santa, a live manger scene, photos ops with Elsa, Anna and Olaf — we are throwing 'Frozen' in there — a puppet show, Santa's toy shop and we are going to make gingerbread houses and ornaments," she said. "Whenever you think of kids going to the North Pole, that's what it's going to be. It's pretty elaborate and growing."

The idea to recreate the North Pole at First Baptist Church is a recent one.

"We had our Pumpkin Patch this past October and I realized how awesome it was to meet new people," Sowers said. "I thought, 'We really need to do something for Christmas. That's where this was birthed from."

The true meaning of Christmas won't be lost among the event's many sights and sounds.

"We're combining Jesus and Santa together, and I'm loving that," Sowers said.

Sowers said more than 100 volunteers are contributing to the event. Many of them assist annually with the church's Vacation Bible School.

"We don't have a shortage of servants," she said.

Visits to Rincon's North Pole will be limited to about 200 families. Time slots are available from 10 a.m.-noon and 2-4 p.m.

Registration for the tour opens Dec. 1 at

"After they choose which tour they want, they will get a callback from an 'elf' — one of our church staff — with a specific time so that we won't have the masses descending upon our building at one time and we can't get people through at a comfortable level," Sowers said. 

Sowers hopes the event will be well received and become a Rincon tradition.

"That would be wonderful," she said. "I would love for people to say, 'Oh, I hope First Baptist Church is doing the North Pole next year. It's just so people can have fun and be together.

"We're super excited about it."