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Byline: Jim Feehan The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Merry Christmas Santa, and pass the ammo.

Old Saint Nick ditched his eight tiny reindeer for a military truck topped with a set of twin-mounted machine guns for the 53rd annual Springfield Christmas Parade.

The parade entry, sponsored by Gary's Independent Subaru Service, featured Santa sporting sunglasses and perched behind a gun turret on the back of the troop transport.

Reaction to military Santa was mixed. Some saluted or gave him a thumbs up, while others booed and cast derisive looks.

Bewildered children along the parade route tugged at their parents' coats and asked, "Where are Santa's reindeers?" and "Is that really Santa?"

Michelle Bartow of Springfield said Santa behind machine guns sent the wrong message to children.

"No way. Santa should not be portrayed with weapons. Next thing you know, you'll have 5- and 6-year-olds asking for AK-47s because Santa says it's OK," said Bartow, a mother of five teenage children.

Jonahs Johnson of Springfield said the parade entry showed poor taste.

"When people see Santa, they shouldn't see him packing a gun," he said.

A few blocks away, Christopher Bromley applauded the entry.

"Santa's loaded and ready. I hope he brings the troops home safe," Bromley said.

On a bone-chilling day that included a light sprinkling, hundreds of parade-goers lined the route bundled in blankets, scarves, woolen stocking caps and heavy winter coats.

The route began at 21st and Olympic streets, proceeded along Mohawk Boulevard to Main and 14th streets then west to Main and Pioneer Parkway. Departing Springfield City Manager Mike Kelly served as grand marshal.

The annual tuba carol concert, presented by the Oregon Tuba Association, kicked off the festivities with a concert in the parking lot next to the Springfield Museum.

The parade's theme was "Postcards from the North Pole," and it featured the usual high school marching bands and drill teams, equestrian entries, vintage cars and trucks as well as flatbed trucks festooned in candy canes, ribbons and bows.

Delena Chambers of Springfield said she looks forward to the parade each year.

"I love the parade. It brings families out," she said.

Near the start of the parade route, Christian and Carrie Beck, their two sons, Maclean, 4, and Warren, 1, and yellow Labrador retriever, Rover, had a front row seat on the center median curb.

"The parade is very family-oriented," Christian Beck said. "It's one of the few Christmas things left."


Rachel Sturdevant, 9, of Eugene, takes photographs of the 53rd annual Springfield Christmas Parade on Saturday. Santa waves from a truck in the Springfield Christmas Parade. Wayne Eastburn / The Register-Guard "Santa's loaded and ready. I hope he brings the troops home safe." - CHRISTOPHER BROMLEY, SPRINGFIELD CHRISTMAS PARADE VIEWER Wayne Eastburn / The Associated Press Jessie Welch, 8, and her mother, Carol Welch, of Eugene, are bundled up against the cold as they watch a horse pass by during Springfield's Christmas parade.
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Title Annotation:Holidays; Crowd reaction is mixed to a parade entry featuring Santa riding atop a military truck with machine guns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 4, 2005
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