From York sheriff to Rock Hill baker, Santa’s helpers are ready

dworthington@heraldonline.comDecember 23, 2012 

Sometime Monday evening radar operators scattered throughout the United States and Canada will keenly scan their scopes, looking for a familiar blip over the North Pole.

Once they see it, they’ll call friends in Colorado Springs, Colo., who will direct satellites with infrared detectors, looking for a well-known, red-nosed source of heat.

Once that’s confirmed, the North American Aerospace Defense Command will announce – as it has done for every year since 1955 – that Santa Claus is on his way.

Santa’s sleigh – with an estimated gift capacity in excess of 60,000 tons and officially rated at 9 reindeer power – travels at astonishing speed with just a twinkle of an eye.

Santa sets his own route, but he usually travels westward, according to NORAD, starting in the South Pacific, through Asia, Africa, Europe and then to the Americas.

As Santa nears Rock Hill, his helpers stand ready to assist him in any way to make sure his toys are delivered to all the boys and girls.

“We will pull out all the stops to help Santa make his stops,” said Mayor Doug Echols.

Eric Ramsdell, executive director of the Rock Hill-York County Airport, has arranged with the tower at the Charlotte airport to clear the air space for Santa, giving him a straight shot to York County. “He has clearance all the way through,” Ramsdell said.

The lights at the airport will be extra bright to help Santa, as will the lights at Carowinds. The Carolina SkyTower, one of the tallest rides at the park has been turned into the Carolina Christmas Tree, and park officials light the tree every night during the holidays.

Santa Claus and Carowinds, said park spokeswoman Julie Whitted, have the same role, to make children happy.

Should Santa encounter any problems with his sleigh, Michael Fitzgerald has his crew at Skytech at the Rock Hill Airport on call. His mechanics are FAA qualified to fix any problems with the sleigh, he said.

Should Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen – and of course, Rudolph – become hungry, the Farmers Exchange on Cherry Road is ready. The store has served Santa’s reindeer since it opened in 1939, said owner Bynum Poe.

“We always have reindeer feed handy,” Poe said. “It’s a mix similar to horse feed with lots of grains and proteins to make the long trip.”

Also on call for the reindeer will be the vets at the Catawba Animal Clinic. Dr. Burt Platt said they are ready to make sure the reindeer aren’t dehydrated and deal with any anxiety they may have. “They try to hard to make their appointed rounds to bring the toys to the children,” Platt said.

Platt’s colleague, Dr. Roger Troutman, is also familiar with what it takes to pull the sleigh. He has worked several years with the sled dog teams in the Iditarod race in Alaska.

Cotton Howell, director of emergency services for York County, said if Santa has a problem anywhere in South Carolina, crews are ready to help him.

“We have fire trucks, ambulances, rescue vehicles, even boats, to help Santa deliver presents,” Howell said. Extra red lights are available for Rudolph’s use too, he said. The National Guard also stands ready, Howell said. “One hundred percent of our resources are at Santa’s disposal,” he said.

York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said if Santa, “needs any help, we will be there for him,” and his deputies will be willing to “escort Santa with blue lights and sirens.”

They’ll be on the lookout for the Grinch too.

Bryant said many of his deputies are experienced in delivering gifts. He said one officer last Christmas Eve stopped at one home and noticed there were no gifts under the Christmas tree. The officer assisted Santa by going home, getting some presents and then taking them to the family.

The Lancaster and Chester Railroad has a train ready in case Santa needs help.

If there are places inaccessible by vehicles, Narroway Productions near Fort Mill has its camel – the ship of the desert – ready to help Santa. A camel can carry almost 1,000 pounds of cargo. Narroway’s cast of more than 360 people is ready to deliver gifts in costume, singing carols and reminding people of the reason for the season.

As Santa makes his way from house to house, Kevin Steele of Tip Top Chimney Sweep, is on call. Steele will be waiting at the Cherry Road fire station where he also works. He’ll have a truck and everything needed should Santa get stuck in a chimney. He also will be ready to clean a dirty chimney should Santa ask.

The Steele family has been helping Santa since 1977, especially after Christmas. Steele said he often finds bits of Santa’s red suit snagged by a chimney’s bricks.

Should Santa have a suit emergency, seamstress Ronda Robinson is prepared. She works with historic clothing at Moments in Time in downtown Rock Hill. “My needle and thread are ready,” she said.

Santa couldn’t make his rounds without the help of the boys and girls who leave a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for him. Phyllis Carswell, owner of the Carswell Bakery in Rock Hill, said Santa prefers homemade chocolate chip cookies – of modest size. Carswell Bakery has been helping Santa for more than 20 years, making cookies in the shape of Santa’s face, Christmas trees, wreaths and snowmen.

And as Santa completes his rounds locally, merchants such as Betsy Rock of Overhead Station in downtown Rock Hill stand ready, in case Santa has forgotten to get gifts for Mrs. Claus or Rudolph and his team. “I’ve got some nice scarves for the reindeer,” Rock said.

And while it’s been said many times, many ways, Santa and all his local helpers, want everyone to have a Merry Christmas.

TRACK SANTA:

Don Worthington 803-329-4066 dworthington@heraldonline.com

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