Riding on giant toy animals, hearing Darien High School Tudor Singers, and drinking hot cocoa were all part of Saturday evening’s 11th annual Holiday Magic event.

The event, which took place at Grove Street Plaza in Darien, drew hundreds of people of all ages.

It was put together by Bill Jensen, owner of the Darien Toy Box; the Darien Chamber; PG Properties; and the Melting Pot.

New this year was a giant stuffed Rudy the reindeer that children rode on. After the sun went down, the reindeer’s shiny red nose could be spotted from a long distance away.

Christmas wishes

Darien residents Maddie, Allie, Nora, and Brian Sturm said it was their first time at Holiday Magic.

“Maddie wanted to come to see Santa,” Allie Sturm said.

When asked what she wants for Christmas, Maddie was silent. “It’s a secret,” she said, smiling.

Allie said all she wants for herself is to make sure her children have “a good Christmas.”

It’s the second year that Darien resident Cara LaFreniere and her family had come to see Santa on Grove Street.

The LaFrenieres moved to town last year from Manhattan.

Cara said she likes events like Holiday Magic since, “It’s not very crowded” when compared to holiday events in Manhattan.

“The kids love this and like seeing Santa,” she added.

For Christmas, while her 4-year-old son C.J. wants a “dinosaur robot,” Cara chuckled that she would like “somebody to decorate our house.”

C.J.’s little sister, Emma, 3, wants two Barbie dolls that she saw at CVS.

Isabella Bromberg of Darien said she would like a “bunny” for Christmas.

“I have a dog named Priscilla,” she said, adding that if she gets a bunny, she would name it “Cake.”

It was the first year that the Gramblings — Katie, Chris, and their sons Liam, 4, and Phillip, 2, were at Holiday Magic.

“We heard about it from friends that came last year,” Katie Grambling said.

“We decided we wanted to come down and check it out,” she said. “We want to see Santa, see the carolers, take a ride on the animals, celebrate the holidays, and add a little holiday cheer.”

She said that as a tradition every Christmas, they “celebrate with family.”

“We stay in town. We do a big Christmas Eve fondue dinner, which is fun,” Grambling said. “We do Christmas morning on our own and go over to nana’s for Christmas dinner.”

Keane Schoen, 8, of Darien said he liked riding on the reindeer and polar bear.

A wrestling fan, for Christmas, he wants a Brock Lesnar action figure.

Darien resident Erika Rodormer and her family have been going to Holiday Magic for several years, and “keep coming back.”

“We love it. It’s just so much fun,” she said. “The town spirit and the holiday spirit feel so wonderful.”

Four-year-old Jack Rodormer said for Christmas, he would like “a blue truck.”

Every Christmas Eve, the Rodormers wear their pajamas and put out milk and cookies for Santa.

Tudor singers

During the evening, the Darien High School Tudor Singers drew a large crowd as they sang Christmas carols.

The Tudor singers are made up of 10th- to 12th-grade students. In the month of December, they perform at about 20 times at different events throughout the school year.

This spring, they’ll sing in a choral festival at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. The following day, they were expected to sing at the Palace Theatre in Stamford at a choral holiday concert.

“Big smiles”

In the middle of the festivities, it suddenly got very quiet. All eyes looked up at the window on the second floor of the Melting Pot, where Santa could be seen waving.

He then came down the “chimney” and greeted all the children, inviting them to sit on his lap.

Jensen said Holiday Magic is the “most important event of the year” for him.

He added that he enjoys putting it on “for the children” and getting to see the “big smiles” on their faces.

“When you start seeing the kids and their anxiousness and they’re ready for it — when you look at that — that’s why I do it,” he said.

Susan Cator, president and the executive director of the Darien Chamber of Commerce, said Holiday Magic represents “the best of Darien with Santa coming down the chimney, and he’s here for everyone who wants to share their Christmas dreams.”

sfox@darientimes.com