Santa's 40th year on the road with his sleigh and helpers
PUBLISHED: 14:21 25 December 2015 | UPDATED: 14:22 25 December 2015
Archant Norfolk © 2015
It's an event that marks the countdown to Christmas, and this 40th year was no different with doors opening into the darkness and families lining roads as the seasonal msuic becomes louder and near.
Accompanied by a group of dedicated volunteers, Santa climbs aboard his sleigh most evenings for a whole month before Christmas. Joined by two illuminated reindeers and to the backdrop of seasonal sing-a-long songs, Santa greets the hundreds, if not thousands, who turn out to see him every year.
“It’s magical to see the children’s faces,” said Great Yarmouth Lion Chris Stanley, who took his turn to play Mr Claus in Cobholm and Southtown.
“The sleigh has been going for at least 40 years, my wife and I moved to Norfolk 35 years ago and it’s been going since before then.”
This longevity means that many of the parents taking their children to see the spectacle, would have also stood on the roadside when they were children, waving to Kris Kringle.
“Even the adults can’t help waving and smiling,” said Mr Stanley. “Their Christmas starts when they see the sleigh too.”
And this was proved true, as many responded to Santa’s cry of “You’re never too old to wave to Santa!”
“Last year, we had one parent chase us down the road with a mobile phone,” Mr Stanley added. “Their daughter was away at university and it was the first time she’d ever missed the sleigh, so she wanted to speak to Santa!”
As well as bringing festive cheer, the sleigh tour also has an important purpose - to raise money for the Lions charity pot, from which contributions come out throughout the year.
“We donate to some national charities, but most of the funds are spent locally,” said one Lions volunteer accompanying the sleigh.
“During the year many people write to ask for our help,” said Mr Stanley. “Some of these are individuals, for example people struggling to get to a college or university interview, or a family who has fallen on tough times.
“Then some are local organisations too, we must donate to around 50 or 60 causes a year. Every penny we collect is given back to the community.”
Around £6,000 is collected from the sleigh tour alone, and onlookers stood ready with bags filled to the brim with coins to deposit into waiting buckets.And, with all administration costs covered by Lions club membership fees, any donations go straight to charity.
Recently, money has been given to the neonatal unit at the James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, as well as the Open Christmas event which aims to provide a free Christmas lunch to those who would otherwise spend Christmas alone.
“It gives you such a lovely feeling, inside and out,” added Mr Stanley. “We appreciate all the support and the PCSOs always come out to help with traffic which we are very appreciative for.”