GLADSTONE, Ore. - Santa Claus will be making the rounds in Gladstone in the next few days and he's using an old Mack fire truck to get him around on his sleigh.
It's all part of 'Santa and the Mack,' an annual tradition that a husband and wife team started about six years ago.
Patrick McMahon is a Portland firefighter and his wife, Raina Eshleman, works as a firefighter/paramedic for Clackamas and Molalla. And for a few nights every Christmas season, the two roll their 1947 Mack fire truck out of their garage in Gladstone, hitch up Santa's sleigh and take him around town to visit folks.
"What's different about our setup versus what fire departments do is that most of their programs have Santa up on the top of the fire engine where the kids can't get anywhere near him," said Eshleman. "Our Santa is down on the ground. Kids can hug Santa, there are photo ops with Santa. So it's personal one-on-one interaction with Santa."
Santa also collects food and toy donations for local charities while he's out and about. A 'silver sleigh' (pictured below) helps with the collection.
Photo courtesy Chris Durkin, Airstream Adventures Northwest.
For McMahon and Eshleman, though, it's more about bringing smiles to people's faces during the holidays than anything else.
"We've had kids run out of their house with no shirt and no shoes on in the snow - like running three blocks thinking they were going to miss Santa," said Eshleman. "It's pretty cute. Families come out. They do family photos with Santa in the sleigh with their kids. And the kids are just ecstatic about it."
"It's great," said McMahon. "I love it. It's a lot of fun to see the smiles from the kids and parents, and from Santa."
"I always walk away feeling proud of my community," Eshleman added. "Because everybody comes out and if they can't come out, they are out on the porch. And neighbors come out and interact with neighbors they don't normally interact with. And it's one little moment of kindness and common interest."
Santa and the Mack will be touring Gladstone for three more nights from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Here are the routes:
Raina Eshleman (left) and Patrick McMahon (right) with their 1947 Mack fire truck. Photo by Shannon L. Cheesman, KATU.com Producer/Reporter.
How it all began...
McMahon said he first got the idea to do this around 15 years ago when he was a volunteer firefighter in Wilsonville. His volunteer captain did the same thing and he loved the idea so much that when he moved to Gladstone, he wanted to do it himself.
Back in 2004, he and his wife bought their very own fire engine and a couple of years later they started taking it out at Christmas time. They didn't have a sleigh for Santa at first - that came later once they realized the big guy was getting pretty worn out getting up and down off the fire truck to greet people.
And as far as the fire truck, McMahon said they bought it from a man in Skamania, Wash., who had gotten it from Ohio. The truck is originally from Indiana.
"We went back to the town that it's from and talked to twin brothers in their 70s that when they started volunteering in 1960-ish, that was the fire engine they responded on," McMahon said.
McMahon and Eshleman also take the truck to the annual Chautauqua Festival in Gladstone and have even used it for a few weddings as the 'getaway car' for the bride and groom.
And if you live in Gladstone or are just passing through sometime, you might see them taking their old Mack fire truck out to get some ice cream or pick up something from the store. They keep it licensed all year and like to take it out now and then just for fun.