Seven-year-old Charlotte Millen scanned the approaching big red vehicles while standing with her parents across the street from Harborview Elementary School. With her mom holding onto her hood to keep her on the sidewalk, the energetic girl locked her eyes on Santa Claus, standing next to Mrs. Claus atop an oncoming fire truck.
Santa waved to the adoring child on his way down Glacier Highway, leaving Millen in disbelief.
“I can’t believe I just saw Santa!” Millen shouted. “This is the best day ever!”
Santa and CCFR have teamed up for decades to create such moments. The planning of the Santa Parade starts shortly after the Fourth of July, said CCFR Assistant Chief Chad Cameron, who has volunteered with the parade for over two decades.
“This is just so positive and we’re seeing people in a positive environment, not because they called us because there’s problems or they’re having a bad day,” Cameron said shortly before the start of the parade. “We’re just giving out candy canes and seeing the public, taking Santa around, letting everybody say hi to Santa.”
The parade begin shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday at the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway parking lot. Santa and Mrs. Claus boarded a fire truck fashioned into a sleigh. With volunteer firefighters leading the way, the fire truck drove down South Franklin Street to Calhoun Avenue, and then down 12th Street, Behrends Avenue and Glacier Avenue toward the Douglas Bridge.
“It even keeps it alive for the older kids,” Victoria Scharen said while waiting near the tram with her adult children and grandchildren. “He’s 10, she’s 8, she’s 9, and even for them, they still believe, and this stuff helps. The whole magic of it. It makes it so much easier for even the older kids to still believe.”
When she was a child, Scharen said the U.S. Coast Guard hosted a similar event. Instead of riding atop a fire truck, Santa arrived to town on a helicopter.
“The helicopter would be gone,” she said. “The kids would all gather and we would watch it come in and land. It was a whole thing when I was a kid and the Coast Guard did it.”
The Millen siblings, 7-year-old Charlotte, and 3-year-old Amadia, came from earlier holiday festivities. Mother Dawn Millen said the family attended the Christmas Carnival put on by Studio 58 inside the Nugget Mall.
“We came from that this afternoon and used as a quasi birthday party for the little one (Amadia) and it was great,” Dawn Millen said. “We did a piñata smash-up, and the kids did arts and crafts all day.”
Lyndley Nakamura and her brother, Keaton, had also come from earlier holiday festivities. The siblings had just finished watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” in the Marine Park Pavilion when the Grinch visited them in the flesh across the street from the Red Dog.
When asked what it was like to see Santa, Lyndley answered with one word: “Awesome.”