In December 1988, Firefighter / Driver Mike Thacker, organized a small group of members to decorate the 1973 Seagrave tiller truck with Christmas lights. With one-person riding on the back dressed as Santa, they drove through downtown Leesburg with the emergency lights and sirens blaring.
Mike has a big heart and wanted badly to bring the joy of Christmas to the citizens. He did not have permission from any of the Company officers to use the ladder truck in this manner but figured it was easier to ask for forgiveness than approval. Mikes gamble paid off; two weeks later, the January meeting minutes state – “Our having Santa ride through the community was an excellent PR act. Everyone who received calls from this event had praise. It was noted that with this positive response we consider making this an annual event.”
The following year the event was billed as “Santa Rides Again” and included Frosty and Rudolph. Since then, it has grown into a seven-night extravaganza, reaching an estimated 30,000 or more people each year. It takes a dozen volunteers about three hours to decorate the fire truck. Members dressed as Santa, Frosty, Rudolph and recently, the Grinch spend up to three hours each night riding on top of the decorated fire truck.
Santa Rides Again has become a cherished Leesburg tradition for two generations of residents and the most popular event that the Fire Company produces. Done in conjunction with our mail in fund drive, Santa Rides are our thanks to the community for helping to support the Fire Company throughout the year.
William Lee "BJ" Grimes (shown here with an adoring fan) volunteered to help with our Santa Rides for many years before he passed away in 2017, at the age of 71. He worked for the Town of Leesburg and is best known for his appearance each December in the Town's Christmas parade. He rode with us each night, through freezing temperatures, drizzle and snow. No matter how bad the weather was, he never complained. BJ was always the first to arrive the next night and the only one who rode every night of the week, year after year. In 2013, Lee Grimes was made an Honorary Member of the Leesburg Volunteer Fire Company for his service. He was a treasured member and has been greatly missed.