In a season filled with hope, it never hurts to be cautious even if you are Old St. Nick. With heightened security concerns and toys for millions of the world's children in his possession, Santa decided not to take any chances and asked for an armed escort, which the Carson City reserve deputies were happy to provide.
"We have been doing this program for a number of years and it has become a Carson City tradition on Christmas Eve," said Reserve Commander Tom Crawford.
Residents wishing to receive a visit from Santa and his security team signed up with the department and then on Christmas Eve, teams of volunteers paid visits to the homes. More than 150 homes were on the list to be hit Christmas Eve, requiring eight teams of Santas and helpers to make the rounds.
"This program works very well for the reserves and extremely well for the sheriff's office. It's a good public relations tool and shows positive community policing," said Crawford. "This city changes and grows by about 5,000 people a year and this gives us the opportunity to get out and see the community as it changes."
Toys for Tots also provides toys that can be handed out at homes in need and every home that is visited gets candy canes donated by Raley's Supermarkets.
Reserve officer Homer Dagdagan along with two elves escorted one of the Santas, whose alias was Tim Watts, while he visited 16 homes in east Carson City.
"I am a civilian, but I enjoy being Santa. I do it because it's fun and people love it, both kids and parents, plus it makes kids happy," said Watts.
The first home of the evening was the Presley House, bustling with laughter and excitement. Santa was mauled by little arms even before he made it through the door. It was a traditional family celebration at the house, one that they said wouldn't be complete without a visit from Santa.
"This is just a great program and it keeps the kids guessing, plus my brother was a long-time deputy so it's good to support the program," said Rick Scott, who was visiting from Dayton.
After passing out candy canes and doling out holiday cheer, Santa was back in the patrol car and ready to roll. The next house on the list was the home of Cindy Merrell whose 4-year-old grandson Jacob Sorber was hoping for a glimpse of the man in red.
"This is the second year I have done it and I think it's just wonderful and the kids love it," said Merrell.
Jacob said he was hoping to get a DVD player and a Hot Wheels Monster Tracks set when he opened his presents Christmas morning.
Jacob wasn't the only kid in the house excited about the visitor, 6-month-old Abbie, Merrell's boxer, couldn't wait to give Santa a hug.
While Santa conversed inside, Dagdagan waited patiently outside to ferry Santa to the next stop.
"We just want to help out and make a difference, it's just part of the sheriff's office's program," said Dagdagan.
Soon it was on to the Gordon House, teeming with the smells of food and the sounds of family. They, like the rest of his destinations were excited to see the velvet-suited celebrity.
One section of his route finished, Santa and his escorts paused before moving on, but only for a moment - with children expecting him, it was only the beginning of his very long night.
-- Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1217.