Nova Scotia

Scotchtown Santa visit axed, but another event to take its place

A 64-year tradition of a visit from Santa Claus in Scotchtown, N.S., is coming to an end this year because of stricter parade rules introduced by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, but the local fire chief says something else is in the works.

Stricter parade rules passed by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are the reason behind the cancellation

Some volunteer fire departments will have to change or cancel their Santa visits because of new parade rules in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

A 64-year tradition of a visit from Santa Claus in Scotchtown, N.S., is coming to an end this year because of stricter parade rules introduced by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, but the local fire chief says something else is in the works.

Many volunteer fire departments take Santa Claus through Cape Breton communities on a fire truck to bring candy to children and the elderly.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality adopted new rules this fall that ban nighttime parades and require more volunteers to ensure bystanders stay clear. The rule changes have left some Cape Breton communities questioning whether they will have Christmas parades this year.

Fire departments will now require a parade permit and volunteers to walk alongside the fire trucks, and such visits would only be allowed in the daytime.

"I have so many people contacting me on a daily basis trying to find out what's going on with Santa. They look forward to it every year, their kids look forward to it every year," said Raymond Eksal, the chief of the Scotchtown Volunteer Fire Department.

Raymond Eksal, the chief of the Scotchtown Volunteer Fire Department, says they don't have enough volunteers to meet new regulations for Santa visits this year in CBRM. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

Eksal said the new rules make it difficult for their department to have enough volunteers to take Santa through the community.

"For us to do our routes, we have to walk 60 kilometres," said Eksal. "The only way we can do it is on a weekend and in order to be able to accomplish this, we would have to start in early November."

Eksal wouldn't elaborate on what the new event would consist of, but said it won't be the visit the community has looked forward to for the last 64 years.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality Coun. Kendra Coombes represents Scotchtown. She said it's going to be difficult for parents to explain to their kids that Santa isn't coming early to their community this year.

She also said it's a disappointment for the firefighters. 

"They love seeing the kids' faces, they love providing that tradition to the community, they're the ones who started it," said Coombes.

Staff Sgt. Joe Farrell of the Cape Breton Regional Police says communities should meet with the traffic authority before cancelling any holiday events. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

Cape Breton Regional Police said some exceptions could be made to allow communities to continue the Santa visits.

Staff Sgt. Joe Farrell said the rules regarding Santa riding on the fire truck or walking through the community fall under the provincial Motor Vehicle Act. He said communities should have a meeting with the traffic authority before they cancel their events.

"We can go through points and maybe come up with some solutions that would satisfy everyone," said Farrell.

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