By Pam Dudding
There is no more of a truer saying than “Bigger than life” when someone describes Sammy Huffman. Tragically, he unexpectedly left the world this year. Many hearts were saddened.
As our first derby is upon us, without Sammy as the wild emcee, many have talked about some tribute to him. As I looked through my notebook, I came across the paper he wrote about being Santa, the year the New Castle parade was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.
I chose to share this with you, so even if you did not get the privilege of knowing the heart of this man, in reading this letter he wrote, you will.
Two Christmas’ ago, the parade was canceled, and I had the idea of hosting a Santa at the Fairgrounds, where the people could drive through. The kids could still get out of their vehicles and talk to Santa, as we had Sammy (Santa Claus) on the stage and the kids stood below.
Many community members helped to bring this thought to reality on a greater scale than I even imagined.
Still, the greatest was Sammy as Santa. He told me he was nervous, but I couldn’t see that, as he never was at a loss for words as he emceed the derbies.
As each kid came to the stage, he would ease their anxiousness, joke with them, love on them, ask them questions and truly relate. He didn’t seem to ask any of the kids the same questions. It was amazing to me. They left smiling, some jumping, and yes, with gifts from Santa as well.
Here is Sammy’s letter he wrote to me about the privilege he felt he had in being the “jolly St. Nick”:
“I was asked a couple of weeks ago if I would be interested in donning the big red coat and filling in for Santa and talk to the children of Craig County. At first, I was reluctant because I didn’t want to say something wrong or scare the kids, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it.
“Since our parade was canceled, this might be the only time some of these kids would get to see Santa and tell him what they wanted for Christmas.
“When the time came and cars started lining up to see old St. Nick, I was getting a little nervous. But, when that first kid stepped out from their SUV and walked over to the carpet that they were to stand on, a big smile came over his face and all my nervousness went away. We started talking about how good he’d been this past year and what he wanted for Christmas. This procedure went on almost non-stop for the next two hours. Each and every child had a conversation with Santa and as they would leave, each child would receive a few presents and have their pictures taken.
“After a night of watching these kids smile with excitement and hope for the special gift from Santa, it made me wonder why I hadn’t ever done this before. To see the look in these kids’ eyes with all their innocence sure was very heartwarming and knowing that you brightened the hearts of these children is a feeling this ole Santa really enjoyed. I hope to get the chance to do this again next year because it sure was a lot of fun.”
Though greatly missed, he added smiles and warmth to many paths he crossed, from derbies to being Santa, and just being a great friend. Here’s to you, Sammy! Always remembered.