When Santa makes appearances in Athens, he arrives in a shiny red fire truck instead of his usual sleigh.
Athens Fire and Rescue provides Santa transportation to events such as this past weekend’s Athens Christmas Open House and the upcoming Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Christmas Tree Lighting.
Santa and Athens Fire and Rescue Capt. Jeff Jones, who has driven Santa, set down for a question-and-answer session about this local tradition, and the answers were revealing. Santa may not want his reindeer to hear some of his answers, and Mrs. Claus may have something to say about his stops at a downtown Athens ice cream shop.
1. Why do you travel by fire truck for your Athens appearances?
Because I travel by reindeer all the time. I almost never get to ride in a fire truck, so it’s really great when Mayor (Ronnie) Marks lets me do it when I come to Athens. I love traveling by fire truck.
2. Do the firefighters ever let you play with the lights and siren?
Yes they do! I love to make as much noise as I possibly can. Usually I come see children at night when I have to be really quiet. I’d much rather come in making lots of noise.
3. Which is more fun: traveling by sleigh or fire truck?
Definitely by fire truck. I don’t have to steer. And the fire truck doesn’t have to stop every 200 miles to use the bathroom.
4. Do you consider the firefighters part of your elves workforce?
Oh no, firefighters are much taller, hairier and they don’t work for candy canes and chocolate. But they have just as much fun as the elves do.
5. Which are better navigators: the reindeer or the firefighters?
Ha! I’d have to say the firefighters. If I’m not careful, the reindeer will fly right over the house I’m aiming for and wind up in a pasture somewhere munching on clover. These Athens firefighters know right where to go. The only time they’ve driven off course was when I asked them to stop at the Kreme Delite.
Capt. Jeff Jones Q&A
1. What is it like driving Santa to events in Athens? Does he make any strange requests?
He is pretty easy going, but last time he kept calling me Prancer. I don't know if that was an insult or not. He prefers to hang his head out the window, so I think he prefers convertibles.
2. Does Santa expect milk and cookies for his Athens appearances or is that just a Christmas Eve tradition?
For some reason he thinks we have milk and cookies in the truck. While that's not always false, it's not part of our equipment. Fellow firefighter Durisseau Dewalt normally has cookies but is lactose intolerant so no milk.
3. Does Santa ask you to turn on the lights and siren?
He likes the lights, but the siren messes up his hearing aids - wait I think that's a secret.
4. Does driving Santa put you at the top of his Good List?
It does normally, except one year he fell out of the truck, and I got celery sticks for Christmas. I loathe celery.
5. What makes a fire truck a good substitute for Santa's sleigh?
Athens fire trucks are always red and white, and Santa really digs red and white. Also, several of us are jolly, and some of us have bellies too. I think we make him feel comfortable.
Children who miss visiting Santa or who want to make sure he gets their wish list, can drop a card to him by visiting a special mailbox in downtown Athens. Team Victory 4 All, a non-profit group for childhood cancer programs, has the Santa mailbox in front of The Grasshopper. Children can send a stamped letter to Santa as part of the Believe Campaign with Macy's that benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Santa will be back in Athens for the Reliance Bank Christmas Parade on Dec. 3, the Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 8 and Sippin’ Cider on Dec. 12. It’s possible Santa may make other appearances as well. Here is a list of some of the holiday events in Athens:
City offices will be closed Thursday, Nov. 26, and Friday, Nov. 27, for the Thanksgiving holiday.
There is a change in garbage pickup. Here is the holiday schedule:
- No pickup on Thanksgiving.
- Thursday pickup will be Friday.
- Friday pickup will be Saturday.
Please have bins to the curb by 6 a.m.
The City of Athens wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday!
The City of Athens is receiving grant funds through the RC&D Council to purchase furniture for the new community center nearing completion at the site of Fort Henderson and Trinity School.
The Alabama’s Mountains, Rivers and Valleys Resource Conservation and Development Council approved the project for $3,100. The City of Athens applied for the grant on behalf of the Athens-Limestone Community Association, which will operate the new center. The funds will purchase chairs, tables and storage carts.
A $290,000 Community Development Block Grant through ADECA paid for most of the construction of the center. The association raised money for the matching funds for construction.
The center, newly named the Pincham-Lincoln Center, will serve to inform and engage the public through cultural, educational and historical activities. As part of the RC&D grant application, the city emphasized how the project has improved a blighted area and will provide services for about 30 to 40 students, particularly students considered low- to moderate-income. The programs will be available for students citywide, but the focus will be on students in the Cowart Elementary district where 77 percent of students receive free or reduced meals.
Downtown projects to improve pedestrian safety and handicap accessibility are receiving financial support from organizations that support tourism dollars and beautification efforts.
The Athens-Limestone Tourism Association and Athens Rotary have donated $15,000 each for work on The Square dubbed as “Getting Squared Away Downtown.” Spirit of Athens, a nationally-accredited Main Street Alabama program, plans to donate another $15,000 later this month. The City of Athens and Limestone County will split the $45,000 for various aspects of the work.
Today, Oct. 9, 2015, Chairman and CEO Gary Verplank of Shape Corp confirmed they have selected Athens, Alabama, as the location for their new injection molding and roll forming operation. Bill Andrews, vice-president of Global Manufacturing, led the site search team for the company.
Shape Corp is a full service supplier in engineering, testing and manufacturing of metal and plastic solutions in North America, Europe and Asia for an array of industries, including automotive, office furniture, medical, agriculture and more.
“The Shape project will bring 170 jobs to our community,” Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said. “This $24-million investment by Shape Corp shows that Athens continues to be attractive to industries. I appreciate the Athens City Council for its efforts to support job growth in our city.”
The Athens City Council will meet on Monday, November 23rd in the Police Station located at 951 Hobbs Street East. A work session will begin at 5:00pm with the regular meeting at 5:30pm.