Santa came to town; Annual tour spreads Christmas cheer

By Nathaniel Carr | Published Saturday, December 23, 2017
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House Calls

HOUSE CALLS – Santa Claus toured Decatur neighborhoods earlier this month with the Decatur Fire Department. Over a five-night run the Jolly Old Elf went door-to-door handing out candy canes and spreading Christmas cheer. The longstanding tradition has become a holiday favorite of local residents. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

It’s the beginning of a cold night in early December. A family is gathered in their living room, sitting on the couch watching their favorite Christmas movie. A bowl of popcorn is strategically placed on the coffee table directly in front of them, close enough so everyone can grab a handful with ease.

“What a perfect night,” the parents think as they cuddle with their children. “What could make this any better?”

Suddenly, a fire engine’s alarm blares outside their home. The kids know what this means. They finally have the opportunity to see Santa and tell him what they want for Christmas.

For just a few days a year, Santa, Mrs. Claus and his team of loyal elves partner with the Decatur Fire Department to accomplish something special. In less than a week, they visit a majority of the houses in Decatur. The big man in the red suit is chauffeured around the friendly streets of Decatur, for a few hours a night, by the town’s most skilled ATV driver and Deputy Fire Chief Deroy Bennett. While his reindeer are still at the North Pole preparing for their long journey on Christmas Eve, he rides out on the ATV, hands out candy canes, visits the good boys and girls of Decatur, and perhaps the most special thing, helps families makes new memories in one of the most special ways.

“The kids were so excited and we could hear the sirens from blocks away. It was just anticipation,” grandmother Cathy Pryor said. “When we got out here, we were just trying to keep the kids out of the street, because they were just so excited.”

While the fire department sets up perimeters, meant to ensure the safety of those who want to cross the street and visit with the old timer, Santa walks up to everyone outside their doorstep, on their patio, on their driveway, in their pajamas, too, Everyone takes part, even the grown-ups in the family.

“All my children are grown up,” mother Lisa Martin said. “But I still come out to see Santa every year.”

Santa has been visiting since 2000, and it’s been a tradition for some families ever since to take a photo on their doorstep with the jolly fellow. Many kids even make sure they tell him what they want for Christmas.

“It’s a big tradition for us. I have six kids, and we just cuddle up in our blankets together and wait for Santa,” mother Aubrey Blake said. “We love it. So please don’t stop coming, Santa!”

Many people plan on it, not planning time to catch up with him anywhere else. It’s nice to know that one night he’ll be right outside with the biggest grin on his face and a candy cane in hand.

“We’ve been coming out to see Santa all eight years we’ve lived in this house,” mother Maggie Stauffer said. “We thought we missed it and my kids went, ‘No!'”

Residents agree: Santa taking the time to visit Decatur means a lot to everyone – kids, parents, grandparents and even pets.

And one more request, if it’s not too late. Hayliegh and David Beatty want to add a couple of things to their wish lists. Haliegh, 9, is asking for watercolors, and David, 4, wants Super Mario Odyssey.

Safe travels, Santa and until next year, best wishes.

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