January 20, 2022

Santa arrives at Beaudry Park on firefighter sleigh

Sarah Bullock/staff reporter

Lisaann Downing, 3, smiles at Santa Claus Wednesday evening as she waits for a toy to come down a candy cane shaped chute at Beaudry Park. The tube allows Santa to give out a gift while socially distanced.

There he was. Larger than life (and larger than an extra-large belt around a red suit can handle).

Smiling and sliding a gift down a candy cane-shaped tube.

Cortland Fire Department brought Santa in a special COVID-safe sleigh Wednesday night to Beaudry Park to hand out toys, cookies and cocoa to children.

Firefighters built the sleigh from a trailer last year, decorated with lights and hauled by Cortland fire trucks. They were busy Sunday bringing Santa to children’s homes, Fire Chief Wayne Friedman said. It’s just a Santa thing: a chance to give away a bit of joy at a time when people could use some.

“It’s amazing,” said Zee-anna Sweat, 13, as she watched her siblings wait in line. “A whole bunch of kids get to see Santa and they never do. They wait all year for this.”

Sweat was there with her sisters, Tiniyan Burke, 4, and Trixton Burke, 3, and cousin Shatoya Dellow, 17, of Cortland.

Sweat was sipping a cup of cocoa as her siblings and Dellow went through the line to speak with Santa.

“Have you been brushing your teeth all year?” Santa asked a girl, 6 1/2. She nodded.

“Excellent!” he said.

Mrs. Claus went to the toy box. Picked a gift. Handed it to Santa. He fitted the present into the top of the 6-foot, candy cane-shaped tube, tilted the tube on a fulcrum like a teeter totter, and down went the toy through the chute to the little girl at the bottom.

As Dellow’s turn arrived, her grandmother let Mrs. Claus know what she especially likes: Barbie dolls. And that’s what came through the candy cane chute.

Santa — on his quest to meet all children where they are — offered to bring the toy to Dellow’s wheelchair, but the chute was long enough to reach her.

For 3-year-old Lisaann Downing of Cortland, this was her first real visit with Santa. Lisaann’s mother brought her, along with her 9-month-old brother Korbynn Wood.

Santa slid some Play-doh down the candy cane chute to Lisaann.

“It’s the very first year where Santa is really big for her,” Church said. “The toy chute’s really cool.”