June 25, 2008 · Updated 9:41 PM
"Santa arrives, one way or anotherSouth Whidbey has a long tradition of unusual arrivals by Santa Claus. The old elf always manages to forget his reindeer, but he personally gets here one way or the others.In more recent times his favorite mode of transportation has been aboard a fire engine, sleigh and all. Fire District 3 personnel drive him around from station to station, and he waves from atop the ladder truck. Kids take their candy canes and scurry home to re-read the Santa Claus story. Maybe they skipped the page where the sleigh lands on the fire truck.This is fine, but in past years our communities showed greater creativity when Santa came to town, using a transportation mode fitting each community.For several years Santa arrived in Clinton by ferry. He'd stand at the end of the incoming ferry and wave, then tote his bag off as fast as he could, before the Ace Hardware truck could mow him down. That tradition seems to have ended. Ferry workers probably weren't thrilled to have Santa holding up traffic, and no doubt dreaded the possibility that ambulance workers would one day have to scrape Santa off the boarding ramp.In Freeland, Santa arrived every year on a tugboat, the Peggy N, owned by Nichols Brothers. This was always my favorite. It was fun to see if Santa could reach shore with a dry costume. Seldom, if ever, did this happen. Santa typically splashed his way ashore and made a beeline to the festive bonfire that always welcomed him. From there he would board a fire engine and be driven uptown, where he would plug in the lights on the nursing home's huge outdoor tree. That tree is now gone, except for its stump which has been fashioned into a lighthouse. The nursing home is gone, too. The Freeland tradition came to an abrupt end one year when the bonfire was built by volunteer firefighters on the concrete boat ramp, owned by the port district. The next day there was a huge hole in the boat ramp, which caused hard feelings between the fire district and the port district for a number of years.In Langley, at least in my time on the island, Santa never made a spectacular entrance. He just showed up, walked around town and gave out candy canes. He probably arrived disguised as a tourist and changed clothes in the telephone booth next to the Dog House.At this particular time in South Whidbey's history, Santa can most often be found on a fire truck. It's not as creative as in the past, but the important thing is that kids have plenty of chances to meet Santa. Next Sunday he'll be at South Whidbey Community Park. Maybe he'll be driven there by a soccer mom. "