Santa Claus took a break from preparations for his big night to visit residents of Cheney on Sunday night.
The jolly old elf joined the Cheney Fire Department to take a hayride through the city while the firefighters and their families handed out candy canes and collected food and other donations for the Cheney Food Bank.
“The concept for tonight is to raise a little food for people who need it more than we do,” Battalion Chief Mike Ault told the firefighters before Santa’s big ride. “Have fun and wish everybody a Merry Christmas.”
Ault drove a tractor that pulled a wagon stacked with hay, a sound system to play traditional Christmas carols, firefighters’ families, and Santa himself, who had a microphone to wish residents Merry Christmas.
It was the eighth year the department made its run through Cheney with Santa (Santa’s schedule prevented him from making the trip last year), but the first time food was collected.
“It’s always good to give back,” said Megan Anderson, who was riding along with Santa with her husband, Jeff, a firefighter.
“It’s probably our favorite part of the year,” Jeff Anderson said.
Miranda Holling was on the wagon with her children, Gage, 6, Devin, 4, and Samantha, 3. Holling’s husband, Casey, is a firefighter. She said this was the first time her family had made the trip with Santa.
“It’s fun,” she said. “It’s very festive.”
The group braved the rain and cold to spread Christmas cheer. Many residents came out to wave to Santa, and several could be seen through their front windows on the phone telling their neighbors Santa was on his way.
Lt. Tim Steiner created the “Happy Holidays” light display that could be seen from the firetruck escorting Santa. The truck had its lights on and firefighters occasionally turned on the sirens to alert the neighborhood that Santa was coming.
Steiner said the department brings Santa to Cheney as a thank you to the community for supporting its levy every five years. Although the firefighters were out spreading holiday cheer, they were still ready to leave if a call came into the department.
“It’s our primary gig,” Steiner said.
At one point of the ride, Jeff Anderson pulled a wrench out of his pocket to make room for more candy canes.
“I’m set up for firefighting. I’m not set up for this,” he joked.