December 1, 2021

Getting set for Santa

Firefighters prepare final touches for St. Nick’s visit

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cortland firefighter Mark Schroeder stands on Santa’s trailer Friday at Cortland’s former armory. Santa and firefighters will deliver gifts Sunday from the trailer as part of a “Here Comes Santa” event.

With just one day left to get Santa’s trailer ready, it will be Run, Run Rudolph for Mark Schroeder and other Cortland firefighters as they prepare for Sunday’s “Here Comes Santa” event.

“We’re right down to the wire,” he said Friday with a laugh.

In past years, Santa and firefighters would stop at children’s homes in Cortland to deliver gifts and a bit of joy, Schroeder said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the department had to get creative to keep the event running while maintaining social distance.

The result was having Santa ride in a decorated trailer and deliver presents through a 7.5foot chute made from PVC pipe.

Some painting, lightbulb installation and final decorations were still needed Friday as Schroeder worked on the trailer.

A different setup, though, has not dampened firefighters’ anticipation.

“I’m excited,” said Derek Reynolds, who was one of the event’s founders five years ago. “I wholeheartedly believe the community needs an event like this.”

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

Cortland firefighter Mark Schroeder tests a gift chute bracket Friday at Cortland’s former armory. Santa and firefighters will deliver gifts Sunday from a specially designed trailer for “Here Comes Santa.”

Toys were both donated by local businesses and purchased by both paid and volunteer members of the fire department, he said.

This year, between $1,500 to $2,000 was budgeted for more than 250 children. The parents, as well, will receive gift cards.

While the event is Sunday, Reynolds said that registration has closed for anyone who wanted to participate.

As the trailer came together Friday, Schroeder said it could be used again in the future as it would be a convenience to deliver toys through a chute instead of stopping at each house, getting out and going to the front door.

“I was on the fence, teetering back and forth, but now as I look at this and can actually get into this and see what we’re going to do, this is the future,” he said. Potentially, the trailer, which took two months to create, could last 10 years.

No matter how long it might have taken, or what work needed to be done, the event needed to happen for the children this year, he said.

“How do you turn around and tell them Santa isn’t coming this year because of the virus?” Schroeder said. “Or he’s just going to drive by and wave to you?”