The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Jim Fisher
For The Sentinel 

Santa and sleigh come through county


Jim Fisher for The Sentinel

SANTA SLEIGH: Santa, assisted by volunteers and deputies from the Klickitat County Sheriff's Office and Search and Rescue, entralls Shahailee Rowan, age 3, in Wishram on Friday.

Santa Claus made a thorough tour of Klickitat County last week, aided by members of the Klickitiat County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) and Search and Rescue volunteers (KCSR) as part of their annual Operation: Sleighbells program.

Beginning last Monday in Klickitat and zigzagging through the county to end up in Bickelton on Sunday, Operation: Sleighbells brought Jolly St. Nick and his antlered squad car to meet children and adults alike and hear their Christmas wishes.

Originally envisioned as a gift-giving program under Sheriff Rick McComas when he was first elected in 2007, the operation has evolved to fill a niche that the participating volunteers feel is able to better serve the county's needs. According to Eileen Porter of KCSO, after a couple of years focusing on giving small presents to the children of outlying communities, participants decided that "that role was already filled by other groups that were previously in place and able to fulfill the gift-giving mission more efficiently than we were." The group decided that their goal should be to bring Santa and his sleigh to the county's outlying rural communities that don't have the luxury of going to a local mall for a sit on his lap.

The operation had a sleigh for Santa to use during his local travels, donated by an anonymous local businessman, but it was in a state of disrepair and was decorated with red, stapled-on felt each year to match the Big Guy's suit. KCSO decided it was time to take action, raising funds for materials and volunteering time to restore the sleigh, which now looks resplendent in red, with white trim and black runners. Hooked up behind a Christmas-lit sheriff's cruiser mounted with antlers and a big red Rudolph nose, the restored sleigh even has provisions for a toe-heater on those nights that Santa visits during especially cold weather.

Friday was one of those nights. Nearly 20 bundled-up Wishram residents braved single-digit temperatures and gusting flurries of the year's first snow for a chance to climb up into the sleigh and make their Christmas wishes known to Santa Claus at the Wishram Train Park. Though wind-chill factors occasionally dipped the thermometer into the negative, the crowd remained cheerful, and the deputies volunteering as stand-ins for elves seemed as jolly as St. Nick himself.


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