Here's where you can catch Santa's Sleigh in Mount Shasta on Saturday

Skye Kinkade
Mount Shasta Herald
Mount Shasta in the shopping center as snow swirls in 2007.

As every child in Mount Shasta knows, Santa Claus is a regular holiday visitor to our little town. During frosty holiday evenings, you can hear the sirens, sleigh bells and caroling long before you see his sleigh, driving through the snow-covered streets with his cheerful elves. Excitement builds as you peer out the window – already bundled in snow jacket and mittens – to catch the first glimpse of Santa's magical sleigh.

When it finally arrives, you head outdoors for your turn to meet Santa himself. While you wait, you can visit with Frosty, the Grinch, and an elf or two. The marshmallow-filled chocolate Santas are a treat to be looked forward to each and every year.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot about the year, Santa will continue his tradition of traveling through Mount Shasta streets in 2020, with a few modifications to keep everyone safe.

Though usually a multi-night event, this year Santa will make his rounds just once: this Saturday, Dec. 19. He will leave City Hall and travel a set route, making limited stops along the way.

Santa's Sleigh in 2018 in front of City Hall.

Children and parents must wear face masks and follow social distancing guidelines.

Children won't be able to sit on Santa's lap, but they'll still have the traditional marshmallow-filled Santas, said Melo. Instead of whispering their holiday wishes straight in Santa's ear, children are encouraged to send him an email to mtshastasanta@gmail.com.

Santa's 2020 route

The sleigh will depart Mount Shasta City Hall at 5:30 p.m. and make the following stops: Ray’s parking lot, Dr. Shearer’s office on West Ivy, E. Ivy and Rockfellow Dr., 814 Carmen Ave, 809 Caroline Ave., 705 Ski Bowl Dr., 209 Kennedy Dr., 738 Pine Ridge Ave., 413 Mill St., 610 Meadow Dr., 316 Sheldon Ave., 707 Merritt Ave., South A at the old Manor, South A and Smith St., Washington Dr. and Ackley.

Two wooden reindeer with real mounted buck heads (yes, real deer heads!!) were attached to the front of the first Santa Sleigh versions in Mount Shasta

Many Melos and a long-standing tradition

Santa's Sleigh has a long history in Mount Shasta While it is uncertain exactly when city firefighters began the annual tradition, evidence suggests their "Christmas float" was around as early as the 1930s.

In a December 1949 clipping of the Mount Shasta Herald, a Christmas parade and party are advertised as "the twelfth consecutive year that the Mount Shasta firemen will hold (the event) ... Kids from all over Siskiyou County are invited to see the parade and receive gifts from Santa Claus."

If these dates are accurate, firefighters were manning the Christmas float in 1936.

In the Dec. 19, 1963 issue of the Herald, longtime Mount Shasta firefighter Joe Melo was presented with a plaque as he retired from his post as the city's Santa after 20 years – meaning his first year as Santa would have been 1943.

Joe's brother, Frank Melo, served on the Mount Shasta Fire Department for 52 years – 39 of them spent as the department's chief – before retiring in 1982. His nephew, Tony Melo, served for several years as the department's volunteer Assistant Chief.

today, Tony's nephew Matt Melo is carrying on the long tradition of Melo firefighters, serving as the Mount Shasta City Fire Department chief. He, like so many others who grew up in Mount Shasta, has many fond memories of Santa's Sleigh.

The design of the sleigh changes over the years but never loses its magical quality.

"I remember when I was a kid, I couldn't wait for the sleigh to come around," Melo said. "When it came time to see Santa, it was quite the experience. I'm glad to be able to share in the event as an adult and participate in keeping it going."

The firefighter's Christmas events have always been made possible through donations from the Mount Shasta community. Little red donation boxes can be found, as always, at many downtown businesses.

For more about Santa's Sleigh history in Mount Shasta, see the City of Mount Shasta's "A Look at Yesteryear."