RUMFORD – Rather than risk a repeat of last Friday’s parade mishap in Mexico that felled Santa and Mrs. Claus and started small children bawling in shock, Rumford firefighters will use a safer vehicle for Saturday night’s Santa parade down Congress Street.

Santa will climb down from the fire station roof and ride atop the ladder truck, said firefighter Eric Giroux, secretary of the Rumford Falls Firemen’s Relief Association.

“Instead of Santa going on his sleigh, which broke down in Mexico and went ‘kaboom’ and somebody yelled, ‘You killed Santa!’ he’s going to ride a firetruck, if our ladder truck still isn’t being used at the Paris warehouse fire,” Giroux said.

Sponsored by the association, Saturday’s short parade will begin at 6 p.m. at the fire station and end at Veterans Park where Santa will light the town Christmas tree. Children can join the parade by walking behind the ladder truck, keeping a watchful eye on Santa, Giroux said.

After the lighting ceremony, Santa will return to the Rumford fire station where he will meet with children and hand out candy.

Santa and Mrs. Claus weren’t injured in the Mexico mishap, “but I guess it was a sight to see,” Giroux said.

Judy Broomhall, who was at the Mexico Fire Department’s Santa parade, said Santa’s sleigh collapsed after Santa lit the station’s Christmas tree, climbed back on the sleigh and it started forward.

When it collapsed, it dumped Mr. and Mrs. Claus to the floor. The children who saw it believed the jolly old elf was hurt, Broomhall said. Someone – either a child or an adult – yelled, “You killed Santa!”

Kids began to sob.

Santa and the misses, however, were checked out and deemed to be fine, said Rumford Falls Times reporter and managing editor Bruce Farrin, who was covering the parade.

The sleigh was fixed, the Clauses returned to their places and the parade continued, with Santa returning to the Mexico fire station where children could see that he and Mrs. Claus were OK.

According to Farrin’s story on Wednesday, one firefighter surmised that the sleigh had collapsed because Santa had eaten “too many cookies.”

The sleigh, which is in the shop, Giroux said, was built by the Rumford Falls Firemen’s Relief Association years ago and loaned to Mexico firefighters every year for their annual Christmas tree-lighting parade.

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