By Debbie Adams
In 2020, when the pandemic paused most holiday traditions in Vinton (including the Vinton Christmas Parade), the town and the Vinton Area Chamber of Commerce came up with a plan to salvage the spirit of Christmas with a Santa Crawl through Vinton neighborhoods.
Now that Santa Crawl, which started as a stopgap measure, has become its own tradition, now in its third year. On Dec. 13, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their elves followed four different routes through Vinton to deliver candy, coloring books, and toys personally to children, along with treats for family dogs. The routes were published ahead of time to give families the opportunity to plan for Santa’s arrival.
The Crawl set off from the Vinton War Memorial at 5:30 p.m. and finished up the routes by 9. Santa’s sleighs and wagons were newly decorated with lights galore (and heaters) and loaded with goodies. They were driven by staff from the Public Works Department, and escorted by the Vinton Police with lights flashing and occasionally sirens wailing. Vinton Town Council and the town’s department heads and other staff served as Santa’s helpers, along with volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce.
What was amazing this year was not just the children bouncing up and down excitedly shrieking, “There’s Santa,” but the adults who came out to shout “Merry Christmas,” to video the parade passing by, and/or to collect pet treats for their dogs.
One of the town’s oldest citizens, Darrell English, age 96, was “delighted when Santa and Mrs. Claus disembarked their sleigh to greet him personally during the Santa Crawl,” according to Mary Beth Layman, Vinton’s former Director of Special Programs. English’s friend Lee Minnix had hosted a little gathering of friends to wait for Santa to come by.
Public Works Crew Leader Jason Davison says the holiday season has been busy for the department, which is led by Director Bo Herndon. Along with Director of Community Programs Chasity Barbour, they are responsible for decorating the town—streetlights, municipal properties including the Vinton War Memorial, Municipal Building, and the Vinton Farmer’s Market, for building the transportation for Santa for the Santa Crawl, for creating a float for the traditional Christmas parade, and more—all while coping with their regular duties. He says the town is adding to their collection of Christmas decorations each year, especially since the holiday season in the valley kicks off here in Vinton with the tree lighting and parade the week after Thanksgiving.
Davison says seeing the faces of the children and the adults who gather along their neighborhood streets waiting for Santa to arrive make it all worthwhile. Grateful parents and grandparents thanked them at every stop on this year’s Crawl.
The community especially thanks Chasity Barbour and Chamber Executive Director Angie Chewning who coordinated the event, and the dedicated and good-spirited Public Works employees and the Vinton Police who kept the parade moving—and the town’s leadership for making family-friendly events such as this possible and growing in scope each year.
The Spirit of Vinton and the joy of Christmas were on display once again—another one of those quality-of-life enhancements of living in the Town of Vinton.