Santa Claus makes annual trip to Sumter

Posted 12/23/18

Reflections remembers the Christmas tradition of welcoming Santa Claus to our community, which according to an article prepared for The Item by Emily Fishburne began in 1926. The article noted that Helena Bultman was living in Clinton, S.C., where …

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Santa Claus makes annual trip to Sumter

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Reflections remembers the Christmas tradition of welcoming Santa Claus to our community, which according to an article prepared for The Item by Emily Fishburne began in 1926. The article noted that Helena Bultman was living in Clinton, S.C., where she saw the people of this town welcome Santa as he arrived in their city. She immediately related the story to her brother George Bultman, who was a member of the municipal band, and he told his fellow musicians about this event. They agreed to replicate a Santa arrival in Sumter with George agreeing to play the role of Santa. This article appeared in the December 16, 1993, issue of The Item and was being retold by our late Mayor "Bubba" McElveen. The article and photos used were taken from The Item archives and reprinted with a small amount of editing.

Father Quinn, Sumter's Catholic priest, furnished a Santa suit and George was driven to Mayesville where he boarded the train traveling to Sumter. It was scheduled to arrive at the Sumter train station much to the delight of hundreds of children who had gathered hoping to see Santa.

"This was such a success that in 1927, all of the public officials and civic leaders joined in welcoming Santa to Sumter. The municipal band was on hand, and school children joined in the parade." The procession proceeded to the school grounds on Washington Street, "where Santa distributed apples and made a cheerful speech urging everyone to be good and to go to bed early on Christmas Eve, when he would make his annual visit."

"In 1928, Christmas lights were added to the business section of the town. They were turned on the day of Santa's arrival, and all the merchants were urged to have their window displays ready by this most important date. Santa's arrival in 1933 saw a crowd of 10,000 to 20,000 Sumterites lining the streets, some who had arrived three or four hours prior to the parade. The event featured Santa being transported in a sleigh pulled by live reindeer." In the 1930s, Santa began arriving in Sumter at the Municipal Airport in an airplane.The tradition of Santa coming to Sumter continued through World War II, and this special event continued with the support of many individuals and organizations eventually becoming a fixture in our annual Christmas parade. Reflections features a number of photos showing the various modes of transportation utilized by Santa Claus to get to the Sumter community. The children (and many others) of our fair city eagerly await his arrival. Merry Christmas to all!