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Santa gets shiny new sleigh in Connellsville Township

| Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Sleigh builder and designer Scott Brooks hands Santa his sack. Santa was assisted by elf Kasi Gephart. Marilyn Forbes | for the Daily Courier dec 2012

For many years, the Connellsville Township Volunteer Fire Department had a long-standing tradition where Santa was driven through the township's streets distributing treat bags to the children. But when the VFD sold the 1977 truck used for the event, the department was faced with a quandary.

What are they going to do with Santa?

“We knew that we had to do something,” assistant fire chief Rob Leiberger said. “The new truck that we bought was too high for Santa to ride in. We were afraid he'd be up in the trees or get hit by some low-hanging branches.”

The department then approached honorary member Scott Brooks of Connellsville, who had constructed items for the department in the past.

The initial idea was to use one of the department's trailers, covered with decorations, for the event. Then, they thought a sleigh might be a great asset to the annual treat distribution.

“They asked me about it about two months ago, and wanted to know if I could build a sleigh,” Brooks said, adding that he and a few friends and family members helped in the construction. “I came up with the design and we put it together.”

Brooks said the biggest obstacle he faced was the sleigh's size, which turned out to measure approximately 6-by-10-feet long.

The red sleigh, covered in lights, will now be the permanent transportation for “Santa” as he makes his way through the township's streets, being pulled by one of the department's trucks. A second truck follows, flashing lights and playing Christmas music.

“We'll take the sleigh apart and store it, then put it back together for next year,” Leiberger said.

The firemen put together 300 to 350 treat bags every year to hand out to the children. The shining new sleigh is a wonderful addition to the tradition.

“When I saw it, it was ‘Wow!' that's about the bottom line,” Leiberger said. “We want to keep the tradition going and we like to do something a little bit different.

“Anyone could put Santa on a fire truck, but we like to have something special,” he added.

Leiberger said the department looks forward to the event every year, visiting with the residents and seeing the children.

“This is a great opportunity for us to give back to our community,” Leiberger said. “It's for the kids and we try to do as much as we can.”

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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