Santa Claus loves to entertain and, with a little help from a few dozen elves, he invited several hundred families into his Fairfield home Saturday to visit for a festive celebration of the season.

"Home" was actually the historic Burr Homestead, which for 26 years has been the site of "A Visit to Santa's House", presented by the Junior Woman's Club of Fairfield. The two-day event, which took place over the weekend, is a favorite destination for fans of St. Nick.

Besides a visit with the jolly ol' fellow, the event featured Mrs. Claus baking cookies, arts and crafts, seasonal entertainment, raffle items, a model train set-up, baked goods sale, gift shop, silhouette artist and guest appearances by costumed characters like Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Proceeds of the event this year benefit the Thomas Merton House, a Bridgeport-based agency that provides families with food and clothing, as well as parental and educational support.

This year's chairwoman, Cheryl Eustace, of the Junior Woman's Club, said she and fellow members are all involved in planning, which began in May. From sponsor support, $10,000 had already been raised. "We usually take in another $10,000 or so in sales and, after expenses, the proceeds will go to Merton House," she said.

"The organization was very involved in the event," said Mark Grasso, vice president of Catholic Charities, whose role includes directing Merton House. "The moms that visit the center baked dozens of cookies and cupcakes." Those were among the hundreds of baked items -- all homemade -- offered by JWC member Marlene Battista, with help from Mary and Brenda Pioli.

In the raffle room, on the main level adjacent to the baked goods area, everything from restaurant certificates to children's bikes and children's portrait photography services was offered.

In the back kitchen, Mrs. Claus sat in a rocker with a huge plate of cookies, delighting youngsters like Ryan and Jack McClane of Fairfield.

In the next room, kids lined up to try their hand at breaking a board held by Thomas Wulffleff of Kempo Academy of Martial Arts, who was leading a karate demonstration. Ten-year-old Abbey Kellerman, of Fairfield, was one of the participants. Her family had won tickets to the event and other special treats in a raffle sponsored by the JWC earlier in the year. The family had a reserved parking place, early entry and the first photo with Santa.

In another room, kids busily made elf hats out of construction paper. Elsewhere, children created Christmas collages. Deborah O'Connor worked with paper in her own way, crafting silhouettes of family members.

In yet another spot in the mansion, kids wiggled and laughed while Jillian D'Onofrio of Giant Steps Toy Store read "Nutquacker," a silly holiday tale.

Of course, the biggest draw was Santa himself, and a line of families led from a second-floor landing, through a hallway and into the room where the center of all the attention greeted his many young fans.

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