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Santa's wailing wakeup call a Williamsport tradition

December 25, 2011|By HEATHER KEELS | heather.keels@herald-mail.com
  • Santa Claus, portrayed by Roger Grimes, waves to people looking out their windows Sunday as he rides through Williamsport aboard a firetruck.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

WILLIAMSPORT — In Williamsport, it is not jingling sleighbells but a soft wailing siren that summons children to their windows for a glimpse of Santa on Christmas morning.

The jolly old elf, portrayed by local resident Roger Grimes, rode through town atop a firetruck, waving to children, from 7 a.m. until about 9:30 a.m. Sunday as part of a long-running local tradition.

“We do it Christmas morning to wake the kids up,” said William Ball, who drove the truck this year. “The response from the community is overwhelming: people hanging out their windows, coming out and cheering. It’s all about the kids and the people in town.”

Ball is chief of Williamsport Volunteer Fire & Emergency Medical Services Inc.

Ball’s 5-year-old son, Caleb, joined him in the firetruck for part of the morning, he said.

The truck visited every street in town, as well as the Cloverton neighborhood just north of town and the Sterling Road area between Williamsport and Halfway, Grimes said.

Grimes said Santa’s rounds on the firetruck have been a tradition “for as long as I can remember, and that’s a long time.”

“I know they’ve been doing it for at least 70 years,” he said.

The fire and rescue company president, Jay Grimes, drove the truck for many years before turning that duty over to Ball, the chief said.

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