Leeds landlady creates drive-thru Santa visit at the Gaping Goose in Garforth

The Gaping Goose in Garforth may be shut for now - but that hasn't stopped Santa coming to pay a visit.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 11:45 am

Jo Heywood, landlady of the Selby Road pub, had to close her doors in November when the city first went under Tier 3 lockdown restrictions.

However, although she couldn't host her usual annual party, she decided she still wanted to bring some Christmas cheer to the community.

Working with volunteers from the local area, Jo has organised a drive-by Santa and the elves experience.

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Santa waving to children at the drive-thru Santa experience at the Gaping Goose in Garforth.

The idea is that people will drive in from one entrance of the car park, be greeted by two elves bearing gifts and have a wave from Santa, who will be stood on the decking area.

Families will then leave from the other entrance.

Children got their first chance to visit Santa on Wednesday, December 9 and Jo said the response has already been "unbelievable".

Jo Heywood, 35, from Kippax, said: "Every year we host a Christmas party at the Gaping Goose and even though we are shut we still wanted to get Santa here.

Santa saying hello to the children at the drive-thru Santa experience at the Gaping Goose in Garforth.

"The drive-thru means the kids don't have to get out of the car at all and because it's from 2.45pm to 4.30pm parents can time their visit with the school run to cut down on unnecessary journeys.

"The cars make two stops to see the elves, where they are given a Christmas checklist and then a special present just for them.

"The presents are selection boxes that have been donated by us at the Goose, local businesses and people who live in the area."

Jo added: "It was our first day on Wednesday and we saw about 40 cars, which means around 60 children got to see Santa and the elves.

Santa and Jo Heywood, landlady at the Gaping Goose in Garforth.

"All of them left looking really happy with big smiles on their faces - even the parents!

"Seeing the children's faces has been unbelievable.

"One lady whose child has special needs reached out to me to say thank you because she didn't know how to explain to her daughter that she couldn't see Santa this year - but because of the drive-thru Santa it was able to happen."

This is not the first time Jo has rallied the community together during the coronavirus pandemic.

Back in March, she dug out the Goose's bingo kit and hosted a socially-distant game on her street - The Rise.

She hopes the drive-thru Santa experience will bring a similar sense of cheer to her neighbours and customers.

Jo said: "Christmas in the pub is usually very busy but absolutely electric. Everyone comes along, sings songs, has a drink and a laugh.

"Even on Christmas day we normally open for a few hours and the bar is always four people deep, with everyone just laughing and joking with one another.

"Unfortunately we won't get to have the joy that we normally have.

"It is sad but we have to do what we have to do if it keeps people safe."

She added: "We are not looking to make any money off of the Santa experience, it's purely to bring some much-needed Christmas spirit.

"This year has been a struggle. We are finding it hard and unfortunately we can't open until Tier one as we are a wet pub.

"But just because we are closed doesn't mean we will forget our customers.

"There is always a way to make someone smile and even if we are closed, we'll still try and do that.

"I think people so far have really enjoyed it and they are just happy to have some festive cheer."

The Santa experience will be held Monday to Friday from 2.45pm to 4.30pm.

It is on from now until Tuesday, December 22.

It is free.

Any money that people do want to donate will go to the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Jo and the Gaping Goose are also asking for more people to volunteer to be one of the elves.

If you would like to donate your time, please message Jo on the pub's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/gapinggoose1

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