Around this time each year Santa can be seen cruising the streets of White Hall spreading a bit of Christmas cheer and visiting area children. But this year the big guy will be arriving in style thanks to the City of White Hall, White Hall Chamber of Commerce and the White Hall Volunteer Fire Dept., who in a joint venture obtained a new sleigh, custom built with lights and speakers for the big guy and his task at hand. The new sleigh was unveiled during a recent meeting of the White Hall Chamber of Commerce.
But few know the story behind the humble beginning of this much anticipated tradition.
According to Bill Beadle, the idea came to light about 10 years ago when John Badgley shared a story with him about his dad, a volunteer firefighter in Buffalo, N.Y., who was riding around in a sleigh on top of a fire truck during Christmas time playing the role of Santa and visiting the neighborhood children. “He asked me if I thought White Hall would be willing to do something like that, said Beadle. We talked with Chief Rickey Doucey about doing it and he thought it was a great idea.” The two immediately went to work on it. “John and I got some plywood, drew out the pattern and we made the first sleigh. We painted it and lettered it, made some brackets to make it fit on the fire truck. We mounted some flood lights to light up Santa, added Beadle. We purchased candy canes to hand out to the kids. The first night as we drove around in White Hall we had cars making u-turns on Dollarway Road and followed us until we stopped. We had so much fun we did it several more times that week and the next. When we see the excitement on the little childrens' faces it makes it worth it. The next year the Chamber of Commerce and EASI helped purchase the candy canes.”
As the tradition grew they started going to the firemen and police officers houses and would visit with their children. “Then more people would call to see if we would bring their children presents if they furnished them, and of course we couldn't say no. Each year we go to about 25 families and visit with them. We go to JRMC childrens wing if there is someone there.”
Beadle recalled a little girl last year, who was terrified of Santa. “As we drove up she would not let go of her mom, knuckeles were white from holding so tight. After spending about 10 minutes with her, she didn't want Santa to leave, Beadle continued. She was hugging him, giving him kisses and having her picture made with him.”
This year we wanted to get a "real" sleigh. John and I looked online until we found what we wanted. I contacted the company, Carolina Carriages and ordered the sleigh. We talked to the city and the the Chamber and they made the sleigh possible.
Page 2 of 2 - “White Hall Volunteer Fire Dept. Chief Castleberry is behind us all the way and is very excited about it and has come up with several ideas for the future.
Santa is set to make his appearance at the annual White Hall Christmas parade on Dec 7, and parade entries are still being sought for this year’s event. The entry fee is one can of food per rider which will benefit the White Hall Food Pantry. The annual Christmas in the Park lighting event will immediately follow the parade and City Hall will again hold an open house offering up hot cocoa and cookies, not to mention a chance to sit in the big guys lap. Memorial stars are still available for a $5 donation to the White Hall Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact Lydia Scholebo at City Hall at 870-247-2399.