Santa Socially Distances At Haines City Fire Department
by James Coulter
You better watch out, you better wear a mask, and you better stay six feet apart, and I’m telling you why: because Santa Claus came to town—and he was staying safe by social distancing!
Just as he has for the past three years, Jolly Old Saint Nicholas paid a visit to the Haines City Fire Department during its annual Santa at the Station event last Friday evening.
Yes, even during these uncertain times, Santa Claus was still able to arrive in Haines City. Special precautions were taken, of course, to ensure both his safety and the safety of his young visitors.
During the event, attendees needed to wear a mask and wait outside in a line six feet apart. Special stars were marked off in chalk to indicate where visitors were to stand while waiting for a visit with Old St. Nick.
Once inside the fire station, Santa Claus remained seated within a vintage fire engine while visitors sat on the ground in front of him and had their pictures taken.
Unlike previous years, no fire station tours were offered, and the fire trucks were off-limits. However, guests could still visit the fire engine bay for cookies and coloring book activities.
Holly Gorsline, Executive Assistant with the Haines City Fire Department, and her staff faced challenges while preparing for the event; nevertheless, the annual visit with Santa Claus still proved successful, with plenty of children and their families eagerly arriving.
“Just because of COVID-19, it was a little bit more difficult to see how to set it up, so it was safe for everybody, but I think we did a good job with social distancing and masks,” she said. “We had a line since we started…Everything is going great thus far. Our expectations are just for the community to come out and have a good time, and everyone is having a good time thus far.”
Jake Jimenez, Haines City Fire Department Battalion Chief, loves being able to help every year. Though this year was less interactive due to the lack of tours and fire trucks, he could still see and meet many eager young visitors.
From within the town limits of Haines City, and as far away as Lakeland, Lake Wales, and Lake Alfred, visitors often come far and near to visit their annual event, and even these uncertain times would not deter them from good old-fashion holiday fun.
“I love getting out and interacting with the community,” he said. “We get to speak and talk with people everywhere…They hear about this event, and we get to talk with them, and they ask questions, and we clarify stuff they do not understand, and it is great community involvement.”