Santa Float set to spread holiday cheer in Waterloo

Harry Wolf

It has become a holiday tradition in Waterloo, and the legend just seems to grow each year.

Children look out the windows of their homes in eager anticipation of the bright lights, music and shouting of “Ho, Ho, Ho” from the Santa Float as it makes its way through their neighborhood.

“That is what keeps it going,” said Harry Wolf of the Waterloo German Band, organizer of the Santa Float. “The looks on the kids’ faces are priceless. Sometimes they walk through ice puddles because they are just so happy to see Santa.”

The Santa Float is again distributing gift bags to the young children of Waterloo this Christmas season, visiting various areas of town during the evenings of Dec. 17-24.

Pictured in front, from left, are Waterloo German Band members and Santa Float organizers Barbara Johnson and Harry Wolf (in front) during the float’s first night of the season last year. In back are Vicki Frank, Santa (George Obernagel), Brad Nobbe, Jim Probst and Steve Frank.

Sponsors of this annual tradition are the Waterloo German Band, City of Waterloo, Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and Sister Cities PortaLoo.

Wolf said the float began more than a decade ago after he approached then-mayor Bob Krump with the idea to drive the Waterloo German Band float through town in celebration of the holiday season.

“I did that for a year or two,” he said. “A couple years passed, and I got Joe Tucker, who had a big white beard, to come with me up and down the streets.”

It started with just candy canes being handed out, but has grown to include gift bags for children. About 400 gift bags are expected to be handed out each night this year.

For a few years, Wolf supplied the gift bags with his own money. But then the city and Waterloo Chamber of Commerce chipped in and other organizations quickly followed suit.

Monetary donations are also accepted from the community to purchase items for the gift bags. Little treats are even handed out to dogs that come up to the float with their owners, Wolf said.

A total of 3,000 gift bags are assembled by the Waterloo High School SHOW Club each year. Wightman Pharmacy donates the bags, and German band member Barbara Johnson finds the items to place in the bags.

“It’s a community effort,” Wolf said. “It’s such a good thing for Waterloo.”

Wolf said the float begins its run every night at 5 p.m., starting in the northern area of the targeted section of town and working its way south. The nightly run ends about 9 p.m.

Parents are urged to have their children’s coats hanging next to the door so they can quickly put them on and run out to approach the float.

“I’m so excited to do it again this year,” Wolf said.

Serving as “Santa” on the float this year are George Obernagel (Dec. 17), Dennis Bullock (Dec. 18), Brian Unger (Dec. 19), Mayor Tom Smith (Dec. 20 and 23), Mike Schneider (Dec. 21), Don Schrader (Dec. 22) and Paul DeBourge (Dec. 24).

For a schedule of this year’s float, read our earlier article by clicking here.

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