CONYERS -- Children had a chance to see Santa and Mrs. Claus up close and personal Saturday during the annual holiday parade in Conyers when the couple in red was forced to walk after their ride stalled.
The jolly old elf and his wife walked down Main Street and greeted children of all ages during the parade. The ride was not Claus' sleigh but a 1968 fire engine used each year to drive Santa and Mrs. Claus down the parade route.
The engine had a failed alternator and stopped three times. Each time firefighters, sheriff's deputies and parade watchers were able to push it off and start it again.
Despite the engine trouble Santa and his right-hand girl made the best of the situation that turned it into a unique memory for many watching the parade. How many times do you see Santa Claus walking down the street?
"It was a hoot. You know, it made for a more personal contact with everybody," said Tom Harrison, Santa's helper in this year's Conyers parade, his second year. "(The children) swarmed us. I just looked at a kid on the side of the road and they would run out to us."
Harrison said it was not a problem walking. Santa and Mrs. Claus left the truck each time it stopped and each time the walking couple attracted a crowd. Mrs. Claus kept pulling Santa back on the center yellow line to keep the parade moving.
"I think it added a lot to the parade. I wouldn't mind seeing Santa get off the fire truck as soon as you get onto Main Street and walk the parade," Harrison said.
The parade was also the debut for the 1951 pumper truck restored by Rockdale County fire fighters this year. The truck was the first apparatus purchased by the Rockdale County Fire Department and ran smoothly during the parade. Grandchildren of George Owens, the fire chief who purchased the truck in 1951, rode on the truck toward the front of the parade.
The event also marked the department's 60th anniversary.
Deputy Fire Chief Dan Morgan explained the restoration of the truck was a huge success bringing donations in money and service together with firefighters who volunteered their free time working on the project. Saturday night, the old truck was ready for one more rescue.
"We were so far ahead in the parade that we were actually finished when the other truck stopped," Morgan said. "We thought about how we could some how loop back and pick up Santa, but by that time the parade was almost over."