Christmas Morning in Mackay
November 25th, 2016 by Dianna Troyer
while visiting Mackay, Idaho, Santa gives bags full of treats to brothers Quinton and Kyson on Christmas morning as their mother, Sarah Frazee, watches and takes pictures.

while visiting Mackay, Idaho, Santa gives bags full of treats to brothers Quinton and Kyson on Christmas morning as their mother, Sarah Frazee, watches and takes pictures.

Since 1925, local elves have ensured that Santa visits this small Idaho town

For nearly a century, children in the central Idaho town of Mackay have known Santa Claus will not only come to town on Christmas morning, but he will also visit each of them.

With a little help from altruistic elves affiliated with local American Legion Post No. 16, Santa rides on the back of a firetruck with siren blaring to deliver paper bags brimming with peanuts, holiday candy and fruit.

The tradition in the remote mountainous town of 500 started in 1925, five years after the post was chartered.

“The looks on some kids’ faces is unforgettable,” says Rick Hanni, 70, second vice-commander and the jolly old elf himself for 16 years. “These days, kids get so many presents, but I think they still appreciate what our Santa gives them.”

Rick appreciated Santa’s candy deliveries when he was a boy.

“In our neighborhood, there were about 30 kids,” he says. “We all ran to one street corner to wait. Back then, it was a really big deal to get candy because most families didn’t buy it often.”

There is never a shortage of volunteer Santas.

“I loved being Santa, but finally had to quit because my knees didn’t like me jumping on and off the truck for three hours,” says Rick.

A few days before Christmas, volunteers of the 75-member post form an assembly line to fill the bags, a labor of love that takes about two to three hours.

“I remember my dad filling the bags in the ’40s,” says Rick, who carried on the family tradition after joining the legion in 1967. “We fill about 200 bags and keep some without peanuts in case kids are allergic to them.”

As volunteers work, they cannot help but wonder if the weather will be nasty or nice on Christmas day—not that a pesky blizzard could stop the tradition.

“One year it snowed 4 feet on Christmas Eve,” says Rick, who says he is immune to cold weather after doing wintertime service calls as a lineman for Lost River Electric Co-op before retiring.

“That Christmas, we couldn’t get around on the firetruck,” Rick says. “We had to call Gerald Twitchell, who let us use his sleigh and horses. That’s what’s nice about a small town. You can count on people for help.”

Even on frigid Christmas mornings, Santa knows he can count on warm-hearted elves to help him.

“It’s a three-generation tradition for our family,” says Trisha Carlson. “My dad used to help sack up and deliver the candy. As a child, I rode on top of the firetruck to help deliver the candy, and my daughters, Colie and Tia, have dressed up like elves to help with the deliveries. Tia still loves being an elf. We look forward to it every year.”

The December candy delivery is just one of the post’s philanthropic projects.

“We have a tradition of giving year-round, not just at the holidays,” says Rick. “Whatever we do, we can count on our local businesses and our auxiliary for help.”