MOUNT CARMEL — Looks like Santa Claus is coming to town in Mount Carmel two Saturdays in a row next month after all, thanks to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which was swayed by an enthusiastic audience to reverse the cancellation of a longtime local tradition.
The Dec. 12 Mount Carmel Christmas Parade remains canceled because of concerns about a spike in coronavirus cases across the region. The parade has been replaced that day by Santa on Main.
On Dec. 12 from noon until 2 p.m., parents can drive by the downtown Main Street stage, where Santa will be waiting to greet children — albeit from a distance — to receive their letters and wish lists and distribute candy safely through a Magic Candy Cane.
The annual Santa Run, which traditionally takes place the Saturday after the parade, also had been canceled. During Thursday’s BMA meeting, however, members of the public urged city leaders to reconsider and allow the Santa Run to take place.
Following a lengthy discussion, Santa received the go-ahead to get atop a fire truck on Dec. 19 and drive past every house in Mount Carmel.
As of Friday, the plan was for Santa to throw candy to anyone who greets him at the road, although the candy issue was what got the Santa Run canceled to start with.
The main concern about the Santa Run was the inability of the city to find an insurance provider that would cover the event if candy is distributed by Santa.
City Manager Mike Housewright said the city’s insurance provider recommended against candy distribution on the Santa Run.
“They are saying they do not believe they will provide coverage if we choose to ignore their recommendation,” Housewright said.
The liability issue would arise from someone claiming to have contracted the coronavirus from a piece of candy.
City attorney John Pevy told the BMA he believes such a claim would be almost impossible to prove, but that doesn’t change the fact that insurance providers won’t cover candy distribution.
Several members of the audience urged the BMA to find a way to maintain the Santa Run tradition, which has taken place for more than 20 years.
“We’ve lived here 20 years, and still we make a point to be home on that particular Saturday for the Santa Run,” said audience member Kim McCann. “People all over the community are texting, ‘Are they in your neighborhood yet?’ … It’s a tradition, and it’s something that we’ve looked forward to ever since we first moved here.
“It’s the little things, sometimes, and I just think that it’s a great thing for our community to do.”
Another resident added, “We don’t want to lose everything. We already lost the parade. ”
There was some discussion about having the Santa Run without candy.
Alderman Steven McLain eventually made a motion to move forward with the Santa Run with candy, and if the insurance company won’t cover it they’ll find a company that will.
“I’ve had a lot of input from citizens wanting to do fire trucks and candy,” McLain said. “We don’t need to do it if we’re not going to throw candy.”
McLain’s motion was approved 5-1-1. Vice Mayor Tresa Mawk voted no and Mayor Pat Stilwell abstained.
The Times News contacted Housewright on Friday for clarification on the Dec. 19 Santa Run plans. Housewright said he doesn’t believe an insurance company will cover the event, but the plan at this moment is to move ahead with candy distribution anyway.
The BMA will meet in workshop on Dec. 10 and regular session Dec. 17, so that plan might change again.
Safety first during Santa on Main
One of the main concerns expressed both by the public and board members for the Dec. 12 Santa on Main event was the original plan to have children exit vehicles to receive their prepackaged candy and drop off their wish lists.
Main Street will remain open to traffic during Santa on Main. Police Chief Ken Lunsford Jr. said he and his staff will formulate a safety plan for traffic, and they will be at the event managing traffic.
Aside from safety concerns, there was also going to be a time factor with children having to exit their vehicles to get candy.
McLain suggested that a piece of flexible pipe be added to the end of the “candy cane”-decorated PVC that Santa will use to drop the candy. That way candy can be dropped directly into each vehicle without requiring anyone to exit.
Vehicles that are in line at 2 p.m. will be allowed to see Santa, but no one will be allowed to get into line after 2 p.m.
Stilwell assured the public that Santa will be wearing gloves and a face mask, and all candy will be pre-packaged and safe.