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A big red truck instead of a sleigh

POULSBO — Being employed as a Santa elf on a Poulsbo Fire Department fire engine is hard work.

There are candy canes to hand out, children to visit and lists of toys to relay to Santa Claus, who is perched on top of the truck.

And to maintain such a strenuous pace, the elves have to energize themselves with hot chocolate and homemade Christmas fudge.

But it’s old hat to PFD paramedic George Epperly, his daughter Whitney Epperly and friend Nyssa Gray. Along with volunteer firefighter Alan Green, the group helped St. Nick visit various neighborhoods in the City of Poulsbo Monday night, including Central Market, Poulsbo Village, Viking Heights and Deer Run, as part of PFD’s annual Santa Runs.

“The reason you do it is obvious — when you see the smile on kids (and) adults faces, it helps lift their spirits,” George Epperly said. “It’s a tradition. There’s something to be said about tradition these days.”

While Epperly forgot the requisite hot chocolate Monday, the homemade fudge given to Santa and his elves from a resident while they toured Poulsbo was just as important. Hot chocolate is the power drink of elves, Epperly said, while snacks of fudge are the vitamins.

Aside from being providers of cheer and candy, the elves also make sure children don’t get in the way of the big truck and communicate with the driver.

“To be a PFD Santa elf, one must be filled with Christmas spirit and aware of the safety rules,” Epperly said.

While people often anticipate having to travel to see Santa, most don’t expect the jolly elf to come to them — especially while at home, catching kids in footie pajamas and moms and dads in their sweatshirts and pajama pants, with little ones on their hips.

“That’s awesome,” said one dad who stood in astonishment as he watched the truck slowly drive by.

“People don’t expect Santa to come by the house quite that early,” Epperly said.

He has been participating in the Santa Runs for as long as he can remember, as far back when his 17-year-old daughter was just a baby. And even then, Whitney would participate as an elf.

But now, Whitney and Gray, who is in her second year of being an elf, enthusiastically jumped in and out of the fire truck cab, with stockings full of candy canes for kids of all ages, plus a couple of dog bones for the canines.

“I love seeing the kids smiling,” Gray said. “Their eyes just light up when they see Santa.”

“The kids get so excited,” Whitney added.

“And the dogs, they bark at Santa Claus,” Epperly said. “It’s not just a people thing.”

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