WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple recently caught up with Wilmington Police Officer Dan Furbush, organizer of the Wilmington Santa Parade, which takes place this Saturday, December 8. Click HERE for details about the event.
#1) How did you get the idea to bring a Santa Parade to Wilmington?
I actually got the idea from two other towns. Most of my family lived in Saugus. Growing up, I would go visit my grandparents on Christmas Eve for dinner. The Town of Saugus would always have Santa, along with the Police Department and Fire Department, travel the town. It became not only a holiday tradition, but a family tradition. The other town was Billerica. The Billerica Elks has a similar event where each year, they team up with the Fire Department and drive Santa around town. When I worked for the town, I would volunteer. Looking back at both events, I always remember seeing the excitement in the kids eyes, along with the smiles and the joy of seeing Santa as he went by. Now as an employee of Wilmington, I wanted to bring the same to our residents.
#2) How do you plan Santa’s routes and stops?
Our first year, we tried to drive down as many streets as possible to bring Santa to as many people as possible. The town was just too big and the amount of people was overwhelming. So I, along with a few volunteers, sat down and came up with the idea of incorporating stops where children can visit. One of the best parts of Christmas, as a kid, was going to see Santa. Waiting in line at the mall was not that much fun. So we figured why not bring Santa to locations where kids can visit. As for planning stops, we try to find locations that are convenient for many residents. As for the routes, we try to hit the main roads and large neighborhoods where we can maximize opportunities for the public to view us.
#3) What should parents and children know if they plan on coming to one of Santa’s stops?
Each stop is busy with activity. The main attraction, of course, is to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus. We encourage kids of all ages to sit with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, have the kids tell them what they want for Christmas, and have the kids parents snap a few photos. Adults are more then welcome to have photos done as well. Police, Fire, and DPW vehicles will be at each stop. We encourage kids to sit inside, ask the public safety personnel about the equipment and take photos. We also have a table set up for children to write letters to troops thanking them for their service. This year, the letters are going to veterans at the VA Hospital. (This is a tough time of the year for many veterans and we hope a nice heart warming letter will help.) Volunteers will also be collecting toys for the Fire Department’s Toys for Wilmington Children and food for the Wilmington Food Pantry.
#4) Do you have any idea how many people actually see Santa on his routes and stops? How many volunteers help with the event?
I cannot come up with an exact number of people who see Santa. I can tell you this much — every street we go down, almost every house has kids or whole families in their living room window or out on their front stairs. There are families on their lawns or out in their driveway waving and taking videos. While driving around, we have cars honking and vehicle occupants screaming and waving. At each stop we have lines of kids waiting for the arrival of Santa.
As for volunteers, we have so many. We have volunteers from the Wilmington Police Department (Officers, staff and Auxiliary Officers), Wilmington Fire Department, workers from Department of Public Works, workers from A&S Towing and Forrest Towing and their friends and family, plus a few of my friends who take the day to help out. I am personally amazed by the overwhelming amount of volunteers that participate. I couldn’t run this event without them. It’s because of all of them that this event is a success every year. Through warm and freezing temps and through snow, mother nature hasn’t always cooperated overthe years. I never hear complaints from them. They really are amazing people
#5) What’s your favorite part about running the event?
I guess my favorite part is seeing the excitement of the children and seeing how much fun the public has during the event. As a police officer here in town, we don’t always get to see people at their best. They aren’t always happy, they are not always smiling. It really is amazing to see how happy people get when they see us. As far as I am concerned, and I know the volunteers feel the same way, it’s great being able to give something back to the community and to bring a little Christmas cheer to people.
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