City announces Santa plan

Last week, the city announced it will be partnering with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Rent-a-Santa program to bring St. Nick to the city.

There’s no reason to cry, Whitehorse, Santa Claus will be coming to town this year. And he won’t be alone.

Last week, the city announced it will be partnering with the Canadian Cancer Society’s Rent-a-Santa program to bring St. Nick to the city. Mayor Dan Curtis, Councillor John Streicker and Councillor Kirk Cameron will dress up as elves and drive a Canadian Cancer Society volunteer Santa around in a truck, decorated to look like a garbage truck.

The truck will be hitting the streets from Dec. 18 to 20.

And its lights will be on while the truck is driving, said Brian Crist, the city’s director of operations.

Under territorial law, it’s illegal to have flashing lights on a motorized vehicle, except for emergency vehicles. Every year, the city applies for a waiver so Santa’s truck can be lit up. This year, the city considered not applying for the waiver because of safety concerns. But, after several councillors rose to Santa’s defence, the city has since obtained a waiver.

Wayne Henderson, the city employee who was Santa for 20 years, will also be involved.

But instead of driving the truck like in the past, he’ll be mapping out where it will go and making sure it’s fully equipped to bring Christmas cheer.

Besides helping schedule the visits to schools, day cares and seniors’ homes, he’s also been getting the candy canes that Real Canadian Superstore donates every year and the lights from Canadian Tire, said Henderson.

Santa’s truck will be a little different this year, he said. It will be decked out in LED lights, rather than the larger bulbs he used. Henderson estimates that at one time he had about a 1,000 lights on the truck. But he’s still glad to see the tradition continue.

It almost didn’t, and that caused many people to fret.

In early November, the city announced that a garbage truck, which has traditionally transported Santa around Whitehorse, would not be available.

The original truck was sold last year when the city purchased three new trucks. One of the trucks is reserved for backup, so there wasn’t one to spare, said Crist. Instead, the city has offered one of its one-ton trucks for the purpose.

The thought of Santa not having his garbage truck riled many citizens. A Facebook page created to save the tradition received 300 likes in less than a week; that number has since doubled.

Councillors were flooded with emails from concerned citizens. Students from Whitehorse Elementary were thinking of coming to City Hall to talk about saving Santa, said Cameron. He put forward a motion to have the city use a garbage truck for Santa, but it was defeated.

The new arrangement will benefit the city and the Canadian Cancer Society, said Crist. Santa’s new truck will also be collecting donations for the Whitehorse Food Bank.

Henderson began the tradition of driving a city garbage truck dressed as Santa Claus 20 years ago when he was a garbage collector. After seeing so many children interested in the garbage truck, he asked the city manager at the time if he could collect garbage wearing a Santa suit.

“It was a hit right off the start,” he said.

After a few years, he stopped collecting garbage as Santa. Instead, he started driving the truck to schools, day cares and seniors’ homes where he handed out candy canes. And he would make individual house calls on request.

“It’s the only time of year I could put so many smiles on people’s faces,” said Henderson.

Donations made to the cancer society will go to support its camp in Maple Ridge, B.C., for children and families affected by childhood cancer. The Canadian Cancer Society has been running its Rent-a-Santa program in Whitehorse since 1989.

Contact Meagan Gillmore at mgillmore@yukon-news.com