OKEECHOBEE — Yes Okeechobee: There is Santa Claus!
Despite predictions that with the end of the city’s fire department, Santa would no longer visit the city neighborhoods during the Christmas season, this is not the case. Santa will once again be heading up and down the streets waving at the children as he passes.
The Okeechobee City Police Department will be escorting Santa on his annual rounds. The convoy will begin at city hall at 6 p.m. on each of the following evenings:
• Thursday, Dec. 16 – Southeast section
• Friday, Dec. 17 - Southwest section
• Saturday, Dec. 18 - Northwest and Northeast sections
For many years, it has been a local tradition for Santa to ride around the City of Okeechobee on a fire truck, waving to the kids. Detective James Pickering, who has been involved in the Santa visits for four or five years, said after the city fire department closed and the county took over fire protection services within the city limits, there were no plans to have Santa visit the neighborhoods this year.
He and Chuck Akers discussed it last week and decided they couldn’t stand the idea of letting the tradition die.
“I didn’t want it to end,” said Pickering. They took their discussion to Police Chief Donald Hagan, and he agreed it was something they should continue. “We are excited and looking forward to keeping the tradition alive,” said the chief.
This year, they will be using the city works truck and Santa will be on the city’s Christmas float as they drive around town. Akers will be driving the truck as he has for several years. Akers said, “It’s all about the kids, not the politics. We hated to see the tradition die.”
According to city clerk Lane Gamiotea, the Santa on a fire truck tradition has been going on at least since the early 1980s.
Santa will be inside city hall from 6-8 p.m. Dec. 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13 and 14.