Orondo welcomes Santa

Children receive a candy cane from Santa during an open house on Dec. 9 at the Douglas County Fire District 4 station. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)


By Darlene Paterson
Empire Press Correspondent

Santa with, from left, Leoangel Hernandez, Claudia Mendoza and Itzel Echeverria. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Community spirit was alive and well in Orondo on Dec. 9 when about 80 area residents gathered at the Douglas County Fire District 4 station for the fire district’s annual Santa open house.

Fire engines with lights flashing were lined up outside, while the reader board invited all to come inside.

Santa greeted kids with his reindeer puppet, gave out candy canes and listened to Christmas wishes while proud parents snapped pictures.

Though a visit with Santa was the main event, other attractions kept community members entertained and involved.

Inside one of the fire engines, kids enjoyed a Christmas story time with Jennifer Oatey, head librarian at Chelan Public Library, while parents visited or had cookies, hot chocolate or cider from the refreshment table. About a dozen firefighters kept everything running smoothly.

Firefighter Wayne Kindig offered free blood pressure and blood sugar checks while Capt. Joe Dietrich and his 17-year-old son Wyatt gave away free crayons and coloring books for all kids attending.

Capt. Joe Dietrich and son Wyatt give out crayons and coloring book to the children at the Santa open house. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

“I love helping as a volunteer firefighter,” Dietrich said. “I am a school teacher so I’m available during the summer and holiday seasons to help out. Wyatt is a cadet in our program and he attends the fire science program at Wenatchee Valley Tech Center. This is what he wants to do for a career.”

“Our purpose today is to support the community,” Dietrich continued. “By bringing Santa here, people have an opportunity to see Santa without driving all the way to Wenatchee or Chelan. This is really all about community and we have had a real good turnout today.”

“This is a great turnout,” volunteer in training Allison Podlich Harkey said. “My firefighting is still pretty minimal but I am working on my state license. I want to be prepared to go when I can. We have a really good group of firefighters for our small community, maybe around 30 or so. And we need them all. Some of them work during the day so you never know who will be available to go out on calls.”

Chelan librarian Jennifer Oatey hosts a Christmas story time inside one of the fire engines. (Empire Press photo/Darlene Paterson)

Claudia Mendoza was one of the first to arrive at the fire station with her daughter Itzel Echeverria and nephew Leoangel Hernandez.

“I think this is a great event for the whole community. It’s a chance for everybody to get together to see Santa and each other,” Mendoza said.

“I grew up in Orondo and attended school here, kindergarten through seventh grade,” Mendoza continued. “Actually, my daughter’s kinder teacher this year was also my kinder teacher. This is a great place to grow up.”

Kids seemed to have the run of the station — both upstairs and down — while adults liked the opportunity to not only watch their children with Santa but enjoy conversations with friends and community members.

Fire Chief Jim Oatey mingled with the crowd, meeting and greeting all who came through the door.

“We are really happy with the turnout of both kids and adults,” Oatey said. “Everyone is having fun and that’s what it’s about. It is nice for us to hang out and have fun too. We are usually doing serious stuff and to come here and basically play for an afternoon is great.”

“We hope some of these kids will someday become firefighters. This might be a way to reel them in,” he laughed. “This has turned out to be a great community event. Santa is very busy this year.”

The Orondo community is thankful for their volunteer fire department and all they do.