Santa Claus is coming to town — Turlock, that is.
For over 40 years, members of Turlock Fire Incorporated have kept the Christmas spirit alive through the annual Santa Tour of the city, complete with music, candy and the jolly, bearded man himself riding in a vintage fire engine.
“There’s something very special about being able to get out there, give back to the community and do something special that people look forward to every year,” Turlock Firefighters Local #2434 spokesperson and Turlock Fire Captain Kevin Tidwell said.
Atop a 1955 American LaFrance engine, Santa Claus will begin his annual tour of the city Saturday evening and stop by every neighborhood in town before Christmas. Turlock Fire Incorporated fully funds the excursion every year, ensuring there’s enough candy and holiday cheer to go around for both the children and adults that look forward to the event.
Members of the Local #2434 union also look forward to Santa’s trip annually and sign up in shifts to take the reigns of Father Christmas’ sleigh, bringing friends and family along for the ride. For many of the Turlock firefighters who grew up right here in town, it’s a trip down memory lane.
“Some of the firefighters we have now that grew up in Turlock have talked about when they were kids looking forward to seeing the Santa truck come through town,” Tidwell said. “Now we have them working for us and they’re on the truck, able to give back to the community and keep that tradition alive.”
Through Dec. 20, Santa and his helpers will visit neighborhoods nightly as it gets dark (takeoff time can vary from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., Tidwell said). Those hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa should keep an ear out for the engine’s unmistakable sirens, though he may not be able to make it to every street because of the city’s size.
Tidwell recommended that community members follow the Turlock Firefighters Local #2434 Facebook page for updates about Santa’s truck, including cancelations due to rain. Typically, the department saves the few days before Christmas for visits to neighborhoods that may have missed out because of weather.
To see when he will visit your home, visit www.cityofturlock.org/firedepartment/aboutus/santatruck/ and enter your address, or call 209-669-2121 to hear Santa’s schedule.
“It’s something incredible that has been going on for a long time, and it’s awesome to see how much people like it,” Tidwell said. “People are thrilled — they’ll chase us down, and they’re waiting outside even when it’s cold. It’s just a great tradition that firefighters love.”