BUCKHANNON – The coronavirus can’t stop the Claus.
Santa Claus, of course.
The Buckhannon Fire Department won’t be able to organize its traditional Friday night Christmas parade due to COVID-19 protocols that prevent large gatherings. However, that’s not stopping the jolly old man in the red suit with a deep belly laugh from visiting children throughout the City of Buckhannon.
At Buckhannon City Council’s meeting Thursday, mayor Robbie Skinner announced the Buckhannon Fire Department had come up with an innovative solution that would allow Santa Claus to wave at children while touring city streets on his fire engine.
“I am really, really thrilled to announce that our fire department – particularly John Brugnoli and [fire chief] J.B. Kimble – have come up with a really great idea,” Skinner said. “As we know, having a Christmas parade this year is just not going to happen, so what we’re going to do is Santa Claus is going to ride on a fire engine, and he’s going to travel up and down Buckhannon city streets.”
Santa’s tour of all sections of the municipality will begin at noon on Saturday, Dec. 5. The BFD’s annual Christmas Parade usually takes place Friday night after dark, so unlike that event, this will be a daytime occurrence.
“It’s going to begin at noon, and it could possibly be an all-day event,” Skinner said. “There will be a set plan of each neighborhood of where Santa’s going to be, so the kids can come out of their homes and wave at Santa on his big fire engine as he goes up and down city streets.”
On Sunday, Brugnoli, a BFD career firefighter who’s spearheading the event, said he was “working on a map of Santa’s schedule as we speak.”
“It looks like we’re going to be starting over (on West Main Street) by Dr. Khan’s office, and then going from there,” Brugnoli said. “We’re not going to be able to hit every single street, but we’ll be covering 75 percent of the streets, so if Santa doesn’t come down your street, all you’ll have to do is just walk to the end of your street at the most, and you’ll be able to see him from there.”
Brugnoli said Santa will be the same white-bearded, joyful fellow who usually rides in the BFD’s early December Christmas parade.
“We have our Santa, and Santa’s going to be riding on a fire truck, so we’re asking everybody to stay on the sidewalk or in their yard and not congregate in groups to prevent community spread,” he said. “We’ll have a police escort.”
Brugnoli said the idea popped into his mind once firefighters realized their traditional Christmas parade wasn’t feasible this holiday season.
“We had talked for several weeks about having to cancel the parade, and we hated to have to do that because that’s our thing – we love the Christmas Parade, and a lot of kids look forward to that … so, we thought, ‘if we can’t bring them the Christmas Parade, why can’t we drive around town and bring Santa to them?’”
Santa Claus’s schedule for his Dec. 5 tour of town will be released within the next week or so, so keep an eye on the City of Buckhannon’s and the Buckhannon Fire Department’s Facebook pages.
At Thursday’s meeting, Skinner commended the fire department for their out-of-the-box thinking.
“Every single week, we spend so much time trying to figure out how we’re going to navigate where we’re at in this world with this virus and we had 1,100 cases in West Virginia today, and the end just doesn’t seem like it’s coming any time soon, even though we hear bits and pieces of positivity with the vaccines that may be coming. So, anything we can do to be safe while also providing the kids with some enjoyment is something positive.”
Anyone with questions may call the fire department at 304-472-2868, Skinner said.