SNEADS FERRY | Santa gave the reindeer a rest and made a stop in Onslow County Saturday with the help of a local fire department.
Sisters Mariah Britt, 7, and Makinze, 3, stood on the bed of their grandfather’s pickup truck waiting excitedly for the arrival of Santa as the sounds of sirens neared.
“I can hear the fire truck. He’s coming,” said Makinze.
A few moments later, a fire truck pulled into the Four Corners shopping center in Sneads Ferry followed by a truck pulling Santa in a boat.
After waving to passing motorists, Santa was soon out of the boat and ready to meet with waiting children.
Mariah and Makinze stopped by with their grandfather, Jim Scott of Sneads Ferry, to see Santa and after sharing their Christmas wishes walked away with a candy cane and stuffed animal to take home.
“I was extremely excited,” Mariah said.
Both girls were also excited to see what Santa rides in when he doesn’t have his sleigh and reindeer.
“I wish I could ride that,” Makinze said, pointing to the boat.
Scott was enjoying the morning as much as his granddaughters.
“I got as much joy out of this as the kids. Who doesn’t love Santa?” Scott said.
Santa did a day-long tour around the Sneads Ferry area courtesy of Turkey Creek Fire and Rescue, stopping at churches, shopping centers, local businesses and the Sneads Ferry Community Center to spread a little Christmas Cheer before heading back to the North Pole to get ready for his big night.
He posed for photos and handed out candy canes and stuffed animals along the way.
Members of the fire department were on hand to assist in the day’s activities.
Pamela Hulst said it is a chance to interact with the community and a day they enjoy as much as the community members.
“We receive so much support from the community and we want to support them,” Hulst said as they got ready to head to their next stop at Gary’s Auto Sales.
Turkey Creek Fire and Rescue Chief Ricky Hardison said the department, which organized in 1974, has done the Santa visit for the residents within their district for as long as he can remember.
“I can’t think of many years that we haven’t done it. It is just something we’ve always liked to do,” Hardison said.
Hardison said they have seen the joy it bring to the children and adults and for the department it is an opportunity to do something for the community and interact with residents outside of an emergency situation.
“If I can spend the day making two or three kids happy, it makes it all worth it,” Hardison said.
The community was much smaller when they first started riding Santa around the community.
“We used to go down every road and the children would come outside as we went by,” Hardison. “The community has grown so much since then.”
Fire trucks have also changed.
Hardison said Santa used to ride on the fire truck but the more modern trucks are much more enclosed and it makes it difficult for Santa to get down off the truck and meet with the children. They decided to use the department’s boat instead.
But that works just fine in a coastal community and Santa said the only thing that really mattered was spreading a little Christmas cheer.
“I love making the children smile. It makes me smile,” he said.
After talking with all the children who stopped by to see him at the Four Corners shopping center, Santa also posed for photos, including a request in front of one of the businesses, Safe House Tactical.
He also got a slice of pizza from Michaelangelo’s for a quick break before climbing back into his seat on the boat.
Before he left, Taylor Chaney, 5, of Sneads Ferry stopped to give Santa a Christmas pencil.
“He gave me something so I wanted to give him something,” she said.
She was there with her dad, Kevin Chaney, and sisters Lillian, 10, and Mackenzi, 15. Their mother, Crystal, was working at Michaelangelo’s.
“I think it is really cool that he got pizza from my mom and I thought it was really cool that he came by boat.”
The Chaney family comes out to see Santa every year.
For others, it came as a complete surprise.
Rene Valentine of Sneads Ferry was out running errands with her 5-year-old twin granddaughters Sydney and Riley when they saw Santa.
“We were driving by and saw him,” Valentine said. “I said ‘Look, there’s a fire truck,’ and they said, ‘There’s Santa’ so we pulled in.”
Valentine, however, wasn’t surprised to learn about the Turkey Creek Fire and Rescue tradition.
“It was adorable,” she said. “I think it is a wonderful thing. I love Sneads Ferry.”
Daily News reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com or 910-382-2557.