ROXBURY, NJ – Hoping to lift the COVID-dampened spirits of Roxbury residents, township fire and first-aid volunteers will be driving Santa around town, but the big guy won't be giving out hugs, handing ot toys or signing autographs.

All three fire and EMS companies in the township have announced plans to escort Jolly St. Nick through their neighborhoods. However, in an effort to keep things safe, they are not planning any up-close-and-personal encounters.

Also, none will be doing the holiday gift deliveries to less fortunate children, something done in past years.

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Two of the Santa tours are taking place tomorrow, (Dec. 12), and one is slated for Dec. 19.

The decision to even tour the town with Santa was not easy for department officials unwilling to risk either their member or the public to coronavirus exposure. On Nov. 20, Roxbury Fire and First Aid Co. 2, in Landing, said the "Santa Run" wasn’t going to happen.

“We received a phone call from the North Pole and it seems that Mrs. Claus is very concerned about Santa coming out this year and is only allowing him to come on Christmas Eve,” said Co. 2 on its Facebook page. “They are also concerned about the health and safety of all the girls and boys of all ages and our volunteers. So, we have to cancel our Santa Run as well as Santa bringing gifts to your children as part of our fundraising program.”

But that decision didn’t stick. On Wednesday, Co. 2 announced a change of heart.

“Roxbury Company 2 is doing the Santa Run, this Saturday Dec. 12 starting at 10 a.m.,” said the Facebook page. “However, for everyone’s safety, Santa will not be stopping.  All residents are invited to come out and wave to him. Let’s all be safe!”

Roxbury Co. 3 Fire and First Aid will be taking Santa around the Lower Berkshire Valley part of town - and areas of Kenvil north of Route 46 - on Dec. 12. That tour begins at 1 p.m. and ends at about 4 p.m.

“For Santa’s safety, and the safety of our members, we will be remaining on the trucks this year due to COVID concerns,” said Co. 3 on Facebook. “However, we encourage residents to come outside their house to join in on the Christmas cheer to wave hello to Santa, and we will allow for socially distanced photos. We also ask that if you come outside that you practice safe social distancing with all neighbors who come outside as well.”

The Santa run for Roxbury Fire and EMS Co. 1, in Succasunna, is slated to take place Dec. 19 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. That tour will see Kris Kringle waving to fans in parts of Succasunna, Ledgewood and Kenvil.

The fire company plans to publish more details about the route on its Facebook page, including a GPS tracker, said a company officer.

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