By Brandi Makuski
“You know this is our 75th year doing this,” remarked Park Ridge Fire Chief Brian Lepper. “I didn’t even realize until I looked today, so it’s a long tradition in the village.”
Lepper, along with others from PRFD, were helping to load goodie bags for village youngsters into two of the department’s vehicles. Santa and Mrs. Claus had a list of about 40 homes to visit inside the village.
According to Lepper, village residents get to sign up for the annual visit when they go to the village hall on Election Day, and while he didn’t immediately know the number of homes Santa Claus visited last year, he said the number of visits was lower than previous years.
The village’s history books tell the story of the annual visits. The first time Santa visited youngsters was in 1940, driving a horse-drawn sleigh and wearing a $2.15 suit, hand-sewn for him by the Garden Club- similar to a ladies auxiliary. Today, the wives of Park Ridge Village Board members typically ensure the suit is clean and cared for, keeping the tradition going.
Santa stopped riding a horse-drawn sleigh in 1953, when the village purchased a brand new fire truck. Lepper said volunteers throughout the village keep the annual visits going.