Smile, Santa Clause is Running Through Town.
By Monique Gaudin
A sea of red, filled the Town Square, as the 8th annual, Opportunity Village, Great Santa Run, hit the streets. Monica Jackson and Jason Feinberg, of Fox5 News Live in Las Vegas, guided the morning events, with Melanie and Zach, from Sunny 106.5. “We need everyone to be suited and booted to get the run started,“ announced Ms. Jackson. “The hat, the beard, the belt, everything, for this to count for the Guinness World Book of records. The officials will be out, and about, in the crowd, and they are checking everybody out.“
The organizers, of this years race, are not only trying to keep the World Santa Challenge trophy, they won back from Liverpool, England last year; but they are also hoping to break the record for the “Largest gathering” of Santa Claus’.
The Guinness World Book record, currently belongs to Derry City, Northern Ireland, UK, where on 9 December 2007, 13,000 people participants in Guildhall Square. However, the World Record Academy gives the title to PORTO city, Portugal, for their 14,200 people dressed as Santa Clause, in their 2008 parade.
In 2009, when the World Santa Challenge kicked off, Las Vegas took home the first place trophy. If they win again this year, it will mark a three out of four year victory in red, white, and boots.
“We are waiting to hear from Osaka, Japan, who just jumped in, and they think they are going to beat us,” said Linda Smith, associate executive director and chief development officer for Opportunity Village,“ but we aren’t going to let them beat us.”
The reported numbers are so far looking good, as our nemesis Liverpool, is reporting 8,500 dashing Santas, to the unofficial, more than 10,000 participants this years event. Robin Leach, best known for; Life Styles of the Rich and Famous fame assured the crowd; “We will keep the record, safely, in the number one capital of the world, Las Vegas.”
Records aside, as Melanie from Sunny 106.5 said, “This is for charity.” The Opportunity Village, holiday tradition, is the second largest fund-raiser to support, the more than 1,700 people with intellectual disabilities, living in the Southern Nevada community.
“The money, that we raise today, lets us provide services to individuals, that might not be served otherwise,” added Ed Guthrie, Executive Director, of Opportunity Village.
A new addition to the effort to increase donations, is the “A Mile of Smiles” campaign, presented by WestStar Credit Union. Kelly Cook, Marketing Manager for WestStar Credit Union, explained; ”For every smile we get a picture of, we are going to donate a dollar, to Opportunity Village. We kicked it off in late September, and we are roughly at about 6,000 pictures. Now we are looking for 16,000.” Her colleague, Mona Joseph chimed in, “We are here to support the Santa Run, and really try to collect money for them.”
Last years Santa Run raised in over $400,000.00 and they are hoping exceed that amount this year. With food trucks, lining the event, and non-stop entertainment before, and after, the race, it appears likely they will.
“WOW! What a crowd,” boasted Mayor, Carolyn Goodman. “Best we’ve ever had, and it’s only in Las Vegas.”