Over 24 years ago, Captain Vince Wiegold A.F.S.M, from Umina Fire Station, (Ettalong in those days) was approached by a neighbour to play Santa in their annual Street Chistmas Party in the Peninsula suburb of Ettalong. Since that time, he and his Bedford have become somewhat of an icon at Christmas time. 24 years on Vince, along with Retired Station Officer Ian Dempsey ,as well as other volunteers who assist Santa, spends the majority of the month of December visiting local preschools, playgroups, church groups and other organisations throughout the whole peninsula area, spreading the Christmas spirit and bringing smiles to many childrens’ faces.
This Santa is quite a special one- he gives each child special attention with a short conversation, and of course knows many of them from previous years—there would be many adults around the Peninsula area who would remember sitting on Santa’s knee when they were children, and Vince would probably remember every one of them! This year alone has seen the Vintage Bedford Fire Engine take Santa to over 50 organisations with in excess of 8000 Children seeing him.
Captain Vince does an average of 50 performances as Santa per year on a voluntary basis, taking him to his 1200th performance this year! Through the dedication and enthusiasm of Captain Vince, Ian Dempsey and the other Santa helpers the profile of the New South Wales Fire Brigade is raised as an organisation which cares for and is involved with the local community. This activity signifies in so many ways that the Christmas spirit is alive and well in the Fire Brigade and within our local communities!!
Article and photography by Veronique Moseley and Ross Beckley (C) 2005
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