Santa is a time-honored tradition during the Christmas season. Due to COVID-19, meeting Santa was going to have to look different as parents tried to find safe alternatives for their visit. What COVID-19 wouldn’t change is the excitement and magic that Santa would bring. Kankakee Valley REMC, a local electric distribution cooperative in Wanatah, Indiana, saw an opportunity to bring Santa safely to a community using the equipment that the cooperative uses every day, a bucket truck.
For Kankakee Valley REMC’s first Santa experience, a private community served by the cooperative was selected as the host site. “What better way to meet the member-consumers of Lakes of the Four Seasons than to bring an event to their home community,” stated Amanda Steeb, director of marketing & communications for Kankakee Valley REMC. In addition to the children seeing Santa, parents would also be provided with a coupon offering a discount if they visited one of the two restaurants within the community. Steeb added, “COVID-19 has been hard on local businesses. The coupon was one way to encourage individuals to visit their community restaurants.”
When planning the event, the cooperative marketing department bounced around some social distancing ideas and then the candy chute idea was born. “We first laughed at the idea of sending candy canes down a chute, but then realized not only would this create a safe, socially distanced event, but would be a visit with Santa that children and families wouldn’t forget,” said Steeb.
As families arrived, they were mesmerized to see Santa greeting them from atop a brightly decorated bucket truck. Taking turns, children dropped their letter to Santa in a decorated box and then scurried to the bottom of a 20’ candy cane chute where they awaited an 8” jumbo candy cane treat from Santa Claus himself. “The added fun was that we took down the name of each child and used a two-way radio to let Santa know who was at the bottom of the candy cane chute. He then greeted the child by name. The expressions were priceless,” added Steeb.
Commitment to community is a founding principle of electric cooperatives. Kankakee Valley REMC and its employees are committed to hosting events like the Santa experience, where they can give back to the community in ways that are fun, safe, and family-focused.