Santa Claus ain’t coming to town

For the last 20 years, Wayne Henderson has donned a Santa suit, decked out a garbage truck with strings of coloured lights and travelled around Whitehorse spreading Christmas cheer.

It’s going to be a less than merry Christmas in Whitehorse this year.

Garbage Santa isn’t coming to town.

For the last 20 years, Wayne Henderson has donned a Santa suit, decked out a garbage truck with strings of coloured lights and travelled around Whitehorse spreading Christmas cheer.

But this holiday season, the two-decades-old tradition has been put on hold.

The city sold Santa’s garbage truck.

Last year, Whitehorse bought new garbage trucks and auctioned off the old ones.

The new trucks don’t have space for the 500-watt generator Henderson uses to power the more than 1,000 lights he wrapped around the truck.

“It’s sad that we’re not doing it this year,” said Henderson. However, the city has assured him the tradition will continue next year.

The truck needs to be rigged up, and with Henderson out of the territory for the next few weeks it’s impossible to get everything ready in time.

“It’s Wayne’s baby and we don’t want to do it without him,” said Deputy Mayor Florence Roberts.

But it will be coming back next year, she said. “It’s really a wonderful program.”

It all started 20 years ago.

At the time Henderson had only been working for the city for a few years.

Kids were fascinated with the garbage truck and would come out to watch the packer crush the garbage, said Henderson.

“One kid would always wait for me,” he said. “Sometimes I’d let him work the controls.”

At Christmas, Henderson thought it would be fun to dress up like Santa while he did his route.

His manager signed off, so Henderson bought a cheap Santa suit and some candy canes.

It was a big hit with the kids, he said.

So big that it wasn’t long before he had to stop picking up garbage and start giving out candy canes full time.

“There would be so many kids running at the truck that it was getting dangerous,” said Henderson.

Over time it just got bigger.

The city had a Santa suit custom-made for Henderson and maintenance staff installed several cigarette lighters in the truck so he could add more lights.

Eventually the truck was wrapped in so many lights that Henderson had to use a diesel generator to power them all.

Local business pitched in.

Canadian Tire supplied the lights, Superstore donated candy canes and Ajax gave him a fresh pair of gloves every year.

Instead of picking up garbage, Henderson was tasked with spreading Christmas cheer throughout the city.

He’d stop by daycares, schools and long-term care facilities.

“I got right into it,” said Henderson. “It gives me a lot of joy and happiness for those four days.”

Over the years, Henderson brought a lot of smiles to people, both young and old, but there are a few that stick out.

One was a child he visited at Copper Ridge Place.

“He was in a vegetative state laying in his mother’s lap when I came,” said Henderson. “I did my whole ‘Ho, ho, ho, merry Christmas’ thing, but when I went to put the candy cane in his hand he couldn’t hold on to it.”

His mother took it for him, and, as she did, she told Henderson her son was smiling.

“I couldn’t see it, but she could,” he said.

Experiences like that keep him doing it.

“Making people smile makes me happy,” he said.

While Henderson said he’s not in it for the publicity, he’s certainly had his fair share of attention.

He’s been featured on both local and national news program and, every once in a while, people will chase down his truck to get a picture with Santa.

Despite the popularity, it almost came to an end 10 years ago.

Under Yukon law, stringing up all those lights is illegal.

The RCMP told him he’d have to stop, but the territorial motor vehicles branch worked a little Christmas magic and gave him an exemption for those four days.

“The lady at motor vehicles, the big cheese, she said to me, ‘You know what, you went to my kid’s school, they talked about you for days. Here’s your permit.’”

It’s now a Whitehorse holiday tradition.

“I’ve had people tell me it’s not Christmas until they see the truck,” said Henderson.

This will be the first time in the last 20 years he won’t be riding around as Santa, but he’s confidant he’ll be back.

“I hope it keeps going,” he said. “Even if I retire, I’d like to come back and be Santa for a few days a year.”

Contact Josh Kerr at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate members Bill Bennett, community engagement coordinator and Mobile Therapeutic Unit team lead, left, and Katherine Alexander, director of policy and analytics, speak to the News about the Mobile Therapeutic Unit that will provide education and health support to students in the communities. (
Mobile Therapeutic Unit will bring education, health support to Indigenous rural students

The mobile unit will begin travelling to communities in the coming weeks

Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, speak during a live stream in Whitehorse on January 20, about the new swish and gargle COVID-19 tests. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Swish and spit COVID-19 test now available in Yukon

Vaccination efforts continue in Whitehorse and smaller communities in the territory

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Most Read