Just before Christmas, Santa Claus and his helpers are coming to town, on a fire engine instead of an eight reindeer-powered sleigh.
From Dec. 20-23, Saint Nick and his elves will visit Arlingtonians who live near the Falls Church Volunteer Fire Department station, located near Fairfax Drive and Langston Blvd at 6950 Little Falls Road. He will be riding a decked-out reserve fire engine, dubbed the “Santamobile” and decorated by the department.
“During each night’s approximately three-hour run, Santa’s helpers will be handing out candy canes — and, to canine friends, dog biscuits, but only if they’ve been ‘good,'” says Santamobile coordinator Jenny Quinn. “Anyone who wishes to receive these treats are encouraged to greet Santa’s helpers at the curb. This provides the safest conditions for Santa’s helpers and ensures they have an opportunity to visit the largest number of our friends and neighbors.”
The ride through Arlington will follow a five-day run through the City of Falls Church from Dec. 15-19.
Quinn notes that routes occasionally change because of road conditions, including parking, traffic, construction and to ensure Santa’s safety. Exact routes can be found on the department’s Facebook page, where people can also follow along via Gylmpse to know where the truck is each evening, Quinn said.
If inclement weather is in the forecast, the Santamobile would be canceled for that evening “for the safety of Santa, his elves and all of residents who come out to see Santa,” she said.
The fire department will make “every effort” to update the Facebook page with any revisions to Santa’s schedule, Quinn said. She asks that people email [email protected] for more information and the latest routes rather than calling the station.
The tradition of escorting Santa Claus through the streets of Falls Church and Arlington dates back to the 1960s, she says. The bedecked fire engine would make appearances for on or two nights, after dark, at random — also known as “wildcatting.”
“As more people began asking for ‘Santa and the fire engine,’ the [FCVFD Board of Trustees] decided in 1981 to formalize the program and standardize neighborhood routes,” Quinn said. “We have been driving some of the Arlington neighborhoods closest to the station in Falls Church from the beginning.”
Today, the FCVFD volunteers don’t fight fires but they do provide ambulance support for the professional Arlington County firefighters who battle blazes in the little city. The volunteer-run station maintains a reserve fire engine, primarily to serve as the Santamobile.
Quinn says the reactions of kids and adults alike remind volunteers why they keep up the yearly tradition.
“I can’t tell you how many elderly people came out of their homes, stood at the door, and seemed like a five year old kid,” said Quinn, who dressed as an elf last year. “It brings a lot of joy to people… A lot of times the adults seem as excited as the kids.”
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