The Rotary Christmas Float and Sleigh returned to a more recognisable format for Christmas 2021 after the difficulties experienced owing to the Covid restrictions of the previous year. There was a full tour of Street to Street collections on 16 evenings when the Float was out in and around the Chesham area. The first evening was on Wednesday 1st December and the final one was completed on Tuesday 21st December. For the first time since we have been engaged with the Christmas Float, and this was the eighth year, the Rotary Club was not initially allocated a route. We were held in reserve in the event of the non-availability of any of the groups which were walking with the Float. It did happen when we had to cancel the Float going out on one evening owing to the severe weather warning of very strong winds. The group who were originally allocated that route were unable to provide sufficient numbers on any of the 3 available reserve dates. The Rotary Club members therefore took the Float out on one of those evenings. Some of the difficulties we have experienced in recent years of some groups turning up on their allocated evening with numbers of collectors well below the expected minimum did not happen this year. The response from all groups and the enthusiasm from the collectors was excellent.
The static collections in Chesham Broadway took place with the Float stationary next to the War Memorial as in previous years. It was there on 5 occasions, again as in previous years. The first appearance was on Wednesday 8th December and appeared every Wednesday and Saturday until the final date which was Wednesday 22nd December.
We received a number of special requests for the Float and we were able to fulfil most of them but not all. On 16th December and for the second consecutive year the Float with Santa on board and with 2 other Rotarians attended the Portobello Care Home in Chartridge Lane. It was an integral part and a highlight of the residents Christmas Party. A number of them came out to see Santa and the Float, Christmas Carols were sung, refreshments were supplied and the festivities were enjoyed by all. The Float then carried on to The Lee and Lee Common and again as in the previous year the majority of the village turned out to see Santa and the Float going through the village. Once more it was a memorable occasion for all.
Both of those commitments have the feel of becoming an annual event. Another annual request and event was Santa attending and handing out presents to the children at their Christmas Party at the The Griffin public house.
Unfortunately we were unable to fulfil the request to attend the Riding For The Disabled premises at Ashley Green but that will be built into the plan for Christmas 2022. Similarly we were unable to fulfil the request for the Float to attend a Christmas Fair at Chesham Town Hall on a Sunday owing to technical problems on the day with the Float. However Santa was able to attend.
The total money collected from all sources for this Christmas was the most money collected since we started with the Float 8 years ago. Considering the recent difficulties leading up to the Christmas period it was an amazing result. A big thank you goes to all the groups involved in walking with the Float in the evenings and the tremendous support and donations from the people of Chesham and the surrounding area. The result was the sheer delight and excitement of the many hundreds of children seeing and talking to Santa in his Sleigh.
As a result of the generous donations received throughout December, each of the groups which took the Float out received £600 which is the most any of the groups have ever received since we started. To say that they were overjoyed at such an amount is an understatement.
We desperately need to find a new home for the Float. It needs to be dry and secure and we need it now. Before the Float can start its appearances for this Christmas it will need some remedial work, and quite a bit in its present state. If we do not find a new dry home for it immediately the deterioration in the coming months could be catastrophic.
The request by one of the mums visiting the Float in The Broadway and telling Santa her son would be coming to visit him and would ask for an unusual present, a Hearse! She informed Santa not to be alarmed by the request, the family lived opposite a funeral directors and he kept seeing the hearse with the lovely flowers on board and he liked the idea.
After our evening visit to The Lee and Lee Common we were presented with a copy of the wonderful 2022 calendar of The Lee courtesy of Phil Harrison and his daughter. Santa in his Sleigh is very proud to feature as Mr December!
Rotarians Mervyn Edwards and Chris Marsh
2nd March 2022
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