Santa comes to Fairfield Christmas Eve
Santa Claus will make his annual Christmas Eve visit to Fairfield, sponsored by the local Rotary Club, late Tuesday afternoon.
Just as he has almost every year for the past 80, Santa and his entourage will arrive in Central Park between 5-5:30 p.m. to pass out treats to children and to take their last-minute gift wishes.
The Christmas Eve ritual begins about 4:30 p.m. when the parade, including Santa’s tractor-powered sleigh, pulls into Fairfield.
According to parade co-chairman Karl Metcalf, the parade will begin at the Fairfield National Guard Armory. It will enter the city from the west on Burlington Avenue, turn south on Sixth Street, east on Adams Avenue, then south on Maple Street. The parade will circle the SunnyBrook Living Care Center; proceed north on Highland Street, west on Burlington Avenue, north on D Street, west on Broadway Avenue, south on B Street, then west on Burlington to the Fairfield square.
The parade will circle the square and stop on the west side of Central Park.
Plans are for each child to sit in the sleigh and chat with Santa for a few minutes before receiving a small, plastic bag full of treats.
Rotarians, Rotary Interact and Rotaract Club members will assist Santa. Andrew Edlin will help Santa and Tena Nelson will help Mrs. Claus.
Co-chairman Dave Reiff will drive the Christmas Tree float, and Ron Haines will drive the bell truck with Karl Metcalf at the reins of Santa’s sleigh.
Rotarians J.H. Montgomery and Fred Jericho started the Santa parade in 1926. The first parade was held on Christmas Day with few spectators in attendance. The next year, it was switched to Christmas Eve to attract a larger audience.
In the early years of the Christmas Eve parade, Bill Stever’s four draft horses drew Santa’s sleigh. The horses wore special bridles decorated with reindeer antlers, weighing 20 pounds and held apart with a hockey stick.
Stever also supplied horses for four to eight outriders. The outriders dressed in red suits and tall red hats, and the horses had colorful blankets.
Santa’s sleigh has always been lighted. Batteries were used at first, but because the lights went out every time the sleigh hit a bump, an electrician always rode along. Now, generators supply the power for the lights thanks to Bovard Studios and Fairfield True Value.
In the early years, as the parade made its way from the New Chicago area on North Fourth Street, around the old hospital and to Central Park, it stopped at the old Armory on the corner of Broadway Avenue and B Street to pick up the Fairfield High School band.
The parade was not held during World War II because of a shortage of materials and manpower, but the Rotarians started it again in 1952, and the procession was expanded to include the bell float, lighted Christmas tree and the carolers. In all those years, there were only four drivers for Santa’s float: Wade Flinspach, Ed Stater, Jon Simplot and Karl Metcalf.
After a few years, a new sleigh was built and mounted on a trailer. Under the direction of high school industrial arts teacher Bill Eddings, reindeer were built and attached to the tractor also. The old four-legged deer on the John Deere logo was the inspiration for the reindeer design.
The reindeer were painted and refurbished in 2009 under the direction of Rotarian and local artist Mark Shafer.
Many men have assisted Santa over the years, including the late Frank Pierson, who helped St. Nick for about 25 years. Spencer Martin, Harvey Condon, Joe Little, Nick Adam, Jim Rubis, Ed Malloy, Dick Reed and Linn Cornick also helped Santa at his workshop.
Metcalf said once Santa has visited with all the children in Central Park, plans are for him to visit the Living Care Center and Jefferson County Health Center, although he will most likely leave his sleigh behind.