QUINCY -- More than 175 youngsters were able to get an early taste -- literally -- of the Christmas season Sunday afternoon.
For the third straight year, the Quincy Family YMCA opened its doors to area children and their families to receive a free photo with Santa Claus, decorate a cookie, enjoy some hot chocolate and receive a small gift.
As always, the cookies and hot chocolate were big favorites, especially the part where the kids get to frost their own treats.
"It's always an opportunity for families to come together, enjoy the holiday season and get into the spirit," said Cristy Fuller, a youth and family coordinator for the YMCA.
The event attracted all ages from newborn through elementary school.
Along with the various baked goods, drinks and presents, the kids who were on hand had the opportunity for some up-close-and-personal time with Santa.
Keith and Alison Hooper made the pilgrimage from near Hannibal, Mo., in order for Kendall, who is "almost 3," and 5-month-old Ella to enjoy the atmosphere and meet Santa.
"Plus, we always like coming to Quincy a lot," Keith Hooper said.
There was a steady -- and sometimes rather long -- line of parents and kids waiting to talk with Santa. That line, however, was fast moving, and there were no complaints.
"They all enjoy coming to see Santa in a safe environment," Fuller said.
Carlye Harrison was on hand with her daughter, Charlie, 3, who had been "looking forward" to seeing Mr. Claus after meeting Mrs. Claus at a recent event in Hannibal.
Along with the Christmas-related offerings of the day, kids also had the chance to climb a rock wall and experience other activities in a nearby gymnasium.
But make no mistake about it, the draw was the big guy in the red suit and white beard.
"It's our first time here, and he's looking forward to meeting Santa," said Joy Rockhold, who with son Kolton, 3, waited patiently in line to chat with Mr. Claus.
More than 500 kids and their parents have attended the Christmas outing during its first three years, and Paige Tracy, a YMCA advisor/consultant, is not surprised.
"Families can do something like this together," she said. "It gives everyone a real pump of joy."