MOUNT VERNON — Hundreds of families and children gathered at the Skagit County Fairgrounds for the annual Skagit Valley Herald Christmas Fund (SVHCF) on Saturday to receive presents donated by the community, sit with Santa and enjoy a variety of Christmas activities.

The fund has provided presents for families since 1949.

“Seeing the kids at distribution, when the families come and pick up their presents, the kids’ eyes sparkle,” fund administrator Lynn Postler said.

Families can still register their kids for gifts at the fairgrounds from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. You must be a Skagit County resident and present a photo ID. For more information and eligibility requirements, call 360-419-7261.

In the partitioned rooms of the A/B Building at the fairgrounds, volunteers Pam Granahan, 62, and 9-year-old Marissa Farias strolled by rows of toys. Granahan would pick up a toy and ask Marissa if she thought a family would like the toy. For Granahan, a seven-year volunteer, Marissa is her most important helper.

“If not for us, some of these kids wouldn’t get anything for Christmas,” Granahan said. “It gives them hope.”

Melanie Bergstrom, 45, assisted registering families and distributing toys. Even though 1,400 of the 1,600 families that registered early had already picked up their presents, volunteers stayed busy during the afternoon.

“We’ve been very busy, but we’ve had really great volunteers,” Bergstrom said. “The parents have been grateful and really happy that we’re here.”

The SVHCF has been sponsored by 67 individuals and organizations.

In Building D, people enjoyed a variety of activities, from taking pictures with Santa to making Christmas ornaments.

Five-year-old Erissa Jimenez said that she asked Santa for a “green mermaid, just like Arial.” Santa was busy with many families, taking pictures and handing out candy canes.

Azucena Guzman, 36, of the Sea Mar Health Clinic has been a volunteer for six years. She’s held a variety of positions; on Saturday, she ran the ring-tossing games.

“Kids throw these inflatable rings onto either the antlers or elf hats. No one loses and every kid gets a prize, such as Play-Doh or Hot Wheels,” Guzman said.

Meanwhile, families had their pictures taken inside a Mount Vernon police car, and Mount Vernon Fire Department members handed out stickers and fire safety pamphlets.

Mike Yeoman from KAPS radio’s Mike in the Morning DJ’d the event, playing songs that ranged from jazzy holiday covers of Tony Bennett to the rock ’n’ roll ballads of Bruce Springsteen.

During breaks with Santa, traditional dancing group Los Tulipanes Groupo Folklorico entertained crowds of passing families.

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