Holiday road: Residents look forward to Santa’s annual tour

By David Talley | Published Saturday, December 17, 2016
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Riding in Style

RIDING IN STYLE – Decatur Deputy Fire Chief Deroy Bennett and his son, Caleb, help drive Santa through the streets of Decatur. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

What does Santa do in the days leading up to Christmas?

In Decatur, he makes house calls.

As part of the Decatur Fire Department’s annual Santa on the Street holiday program, Saint Nick traverses the town in a Honda SXS all-terrain vehicle, escorted by emergency vehicles blaring sirens and flashing lights, calling a hoard of eager kids, parents, dogs, cats and at least one chicken.

The event is nightly for one week, with Santa’s entourage touring a few neighborhoods each evening and passing out candy canes to residents waiting in their yards.

Santa’s driver, Deputy Fire Chief Deroy Bennett, said the ratio of kids and adults that come out to see Santa is closer than most would think. “One thing you’ll notice is we get just as many older folks coming out to take pictures with Santa,” he said. “This is a good night for almost everyone.”

Bennett said Santa’s crew will occasionally encounter an impatient driver. However, the same rules regarding emergency vehicles in emergency situations also apply during the escort – back off when the lights and sirens are activated.

When stopped though, traffic carefully snakes around the vehicles as neighbors out to dinner or church try to get home before Santa passes their block.

Decatur resident Shannon Baugh waited in her yard with her sister, Sarah and niece, Lillie. Sarah and Lillie drove from Bowie in hopes of seeing Santa make his run through town.

“They don’t do anything like this in Bowie,” she said.

Bennett said the idea came from his time working at the Lewisville Fire Department. The larger department would seat Santa on top of a fire engine to drive through town.

“They didn’t have time to stop,” he said. “Santa could just wave and toss candy, but it’s a bigger town. I thought it would be a good idea here.”

With a few changes, the program came to Decatur 16 years ago. Over time, the route has been altered and the department has used different sponsors for Santa’s ride, but other than that, he said, the spirit of the Decatur event remains the same. Santa tours the neighborhoods, stopping for hugs and to pose for photos, passing out candy canes to everyone along the way.

Bennett said the department hands out around 2,000 candy canes each year.

For Sarah Baugh, the personal part of the night meant the most to her daughter. Lillie could hear Santa coming from a good distance away and knew he was there for her.

“The sirens are a plus,” Baugh said. “She was like, ‘Mom, Mom, he’s almost here.’ Her face was priceless.”

Hugs for Santa

HUGS FOR SANTA – Alex and Joselyne Montello greet Santa in their yard. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

A Gift For You

A GIFT FOR YOU – Kynzlie Trachta passes back a gift to Santa during his rounds this week. Bennett said residents may sometimes offer snacks or donations to Santa and the firefighters. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Group Shot

GROUP SHOT – Daisy, Zyla, Kaitlyn and Yajely Flores pose for a photo with Santa. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

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