When Santa Claus and the White Hall Christmas Parade begin moving down Dollarway Road the evening of Dec. 7, Santa will be seated in a new sleigh atop a White Hall fire truck.
It is an honest-to-goodness sleigh built by Carolina Carriages and was ordered in a joint venture between the City of White Hall, White Hall Chamber of Commerce and the White Hall Volunteer Fire Department.
“We were ready for it,” said Fire Marshal Bill Beadle, who recalled how the original sleigh was obtained for the parade.
A decade ago, Beadle said Monday, volunteer firemen John Badgley was telling him how his father was the Santa at a volunteer fire department in New York state, and had gone around their city during Christmas with a sleigh and Santa on top of a fire truck.
“He asked me if I thought White Hall would do something like that,” added Beadle. “We talked with (then Fire) Chief Rickey Doucey about doing it and he thought it was a great idea.
“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.”
They mounted some flood lights to light up Santa and purchased candy canes to hand out to the kids. “The first night we drove around in White Hall we had cars making U-turns on Dollarway Road and followed us until we stopped,” Beadle related.
The adult firemen were having so much fun they did it several more times that week and the next week, deciding the excitement on the little children’s faces it made it worth the effort.
The following year the chamber and EASI ambulance service helped purchase the candy canes.
Santa and the volunteers also visited the homes of firemen and police officers. When the word spread, parents began asking “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,” Beadles said.
Santa and his volunteer helpers will visit Jefferson Regional Medical Center’s pediatric wing if any children are hospitalized, they said.
“This year I wanted to get a ‘real’ sleigh,” Beadles explained. They found what they wanted, contacted the company and ordered the sleigh.
“Chief (Sandy) Castleberry is behind us all the way and is very excited about it and has come up with several ideas for the future,” Beadles added. “We have installed some speakers and lights and will be playing Christmas music.”
The sleigh was mounted on a 1978 Pierce fire truck, with both the truck and sleigh outfitted with Christmas lights.
Proceeds from the Founders Day activities help underwrite the Christmas Parade, said chamber President Tommy Castleberry. Stephanie Moreau, chamber secretary, is heading up the Christmas Parade effort this year.
She said the parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Regal Oaks, then turn north on Dollarway to Anderson and City Park.
Individuals and organizations seeking to enter the parade can obtain a form at City Hall. The entry fee is one canned meat or non-perishable food item for each person in the group that will go to the White Hall Food Pantry.
The deadline for bands, businesses, dignitaries, youth and school organizations, saddle clubs, civic clubs and churches to sign up for the parade is Nov. 30. The parade entry forms are available at White Hall City Hall and should be mailed to White Hall Chamber of Commerce, Attention Parade, P.O. Box 20429, White Hall, Ark. 71612, or returned to City Hall.
For additional information, call Moreau at (870) 692-5699.