Bundle up and bring a blanket — Winter Wagon Rides are back this Saturday

Also: Annual Christmas Parade slated for 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7

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A 2018 photo of A Governor's Inn decked out in lights and dusted by a fresh snowfall. / Photo by Brian Bergstrom, My Buckhannon

BUCKHANNON – ‘Tis the season for Winter Wagon rides and the Buckhannon Fire Department’s annual Christmas Parade.

In fact, both will roll through town this weekend!

The Buckhannon Christmas Parade is Friday with lineup starting at 5:30 p.m., and the parade stepping off at 6 p.m. City of Buckhannon Information Coordinator and Grant Writer Callie Cronin Sams said groups and individuals interested in participating in the parade are welcome to join.

“You don’t have to pre-register,” she said. “Just come down to the lineup on Madison Street down near Wendy’s and if your group would like to participate just come and join in the fun at the 5:30 lineup,” Sams said.

The parade will march up Madison, make a right on Locust and a right on Main Street before following Main Street down to Friendly Way and into the firehouse. Fire Chief J.B. Kimble said the department has been putting on the parade for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been here for 30 years and it’s been almost always the same,” Kimble said. “It’s about Christmas and about the kids. Santa Claus comes here and hands out candy at the fire station and it’s just a tradition. Just like the police department does the Trunk or Treat, we have the Christmas Parade and it’s about family and coming here and drinking hot chocolate afterwards and enjoying Santa Claus and kids having a good time.”

Santa can be found at the firehouse following the parade where toasty warm hot chocolate will be served up.

“Santa usually sees probably around 125 kids here after the parade, and on a good night, maybe 175,” Kimble said. “It’s really fun to sit here and watch the kids come in, some kids are scared of Santa and some are all over him and Santa always enjoys his time here.”

The Winter Wagon Rides begin the day after the parade, this Saturday Dec. 7; they’ll take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and continue Dec. 14 and Dec. 21. The Dec. 7 and 21 dates will start at 6 p.m. at Jawbone Park, but the Dec. 14 date will start in the Salvation Army parking lot to coordinate with Adventures in Toyland event. (Look for an upcoming story on this event on My Buckhannon.)

Director of Public Works Jerry Arnold said the rides last 15 to 20 minutes.

“I have not established any routes yet because we wait until there’s lights up, and I’m hoping that more lights have been put up because usually people wait until the first of December to start,” Arnold said. “Thursday evening, I’ll be driving around and looking for different routes and then we also give flexibility to the drivers while they are out, if they see a lot of lights down a particular street.”

The rides do not have a fee, but goodwill donations will be accepted for the Zach Post Memorial Food Drive.

“We do it for Zach Post who was a college student who worked in waste collection,” Arnold said. “He worked out there for the summers. Zach died by suicide and part of his family started the Zach Post Memorial Food Drive in honor of Zach, and then all the proceeds go to the Parish House and Salvation Army in memory of him.”

He said when the city started providing Winter Wagon Rides two years ago, they accepted canned food donations, but now request cash donations.

“We started out with food donations, but it got really difficult to deal with that, so what we do now is we just ask for a cash donation and we found that that folks are usually more generous than if you set a price,” Arnold said.

Arnold said the rides have blankets, but people are encouraged to bring their own and this year, they will have someone offering hot chocolate and coffee.

“People love the rides; I haven’t had anyone not like it,” Arnold said. “We’ve had instances where the same folks come every weekend and typically what happens is, they’ll have their family in for the holidays and want to do something a little more unique, so they come down to take a wagon ride around town and look at the lights and when that happens, you’ll have groups of usually 10 or 12.”

This year, the wagon rides will also have Santa available for pictures. Sams said if someone has special needs or requirements, they may call ahead and city officials will try to accommodate them so people can enjoy the wagon rides.