By Maya Pottiger
Since Earleigh Heights kicked off Lunch with Santa in 2008, Michael Sohn has been at the event dressed in his Santa costume.
But Sohn started dressing as Santa before then. In the mid ‘80s, Sohn would rotate with other members of Earleigh Heights to sit on top of the fire engine during the station’s Santa Runs.
“We would decorate the fire engine, take Santa on top of the fire engine and go around,” Sohn said. “I’ve sat in that thing [in the] cold, rain. It’s fun. I enjoy it.”
Now, Sohn has swapped the fire engine for a chair inside the fire hall.
At Lunch with Santa, roughly 120 kids cycle through the station to take photos with Santa, eat lunch and tour the fire engines.
“Kids come up, sit on my lap, just like you would do at the store,” Sohn said.
Sohn asks each child what they want for Christmas. The answers are pretty standard, he said: bikes, Barbie dolls, toys — and, yes, even a pony.
The best part of Lunch with Santa is seeing the smiles on kids’ faces, Sohn said.
“Some of them still believe,” Sohn said. “They’re all happy that they’re seeing Santa Claus.”
This year, Lunch with Santa was held on Sunday, December 2, from noon to 3:00pm. The event was free, and a photographer took professional photos for $5.
“I enjoy it,” Sohn said. “It’s something we do for the community.”
This year, Earleigh Heights’ Santa Runs were on December 1-2, with two remaining dates on December 15 and 16. Santa will ride behind the fire engine from 5:00pm to 9:00pm.
When the Santa Runs initially started, Santa was able to sit on top of the fire engine. After a few changes to the rules, Earleigh Heights crafted a sleigh out of plywood and hooked it to a trailer, which is pulled by the fire engine.
“They put music to it, and they play Christmas music as they come down the road,” Sohn said. “I enjoy it, seeing the expressions on the kids’ faces.”