Thanks to the Sunrise Rotary and the Tracy City Center Association, Santa’s Hut will return to downtown Saturday, Dec. 17.
The hut has been a fixture of local holiday celebrations since the early 1960s, when the Tracy Junior Chamber of Commerce set up the jolly old elf in a small house on the corner of 10th Street and Central Avenue. There it entertained generations of Tracy residents until a few years ago, when the Downtown Tracy Business Improvement Area couldn’t pull the event together.
So Santa’s Hut sat in the city’s Boyd Service Center lot, waiting until Neal Daily and the Sunrise Rotary club got the idea to bring it back.
“I’ve kinda talked about the nostalgia of Santa Claus being on Central for years,” said Daily, who a couple weeks ago began an effort to haul out Santa’s Hut after a conversation during a West High School booster club fundraiser. “It’s been so long since it’s been used.”
Originally, Daily anticipated the hut would be set up at Big O Tires’ new location, 1129 11th St. Big O owner Singh Dale had been a welcome host for the hut when he was at the corner of 10th Street and Central Avenue, so Daily thought that would make an ideal spot.
But when the TCCA got wind of the push to open Santa’s place for kids with Christmas wishes, the organization helped clear space in downtown — though not in the traditional location. The hut will instead be in the parking lot of the Ward Building, on the corner of 11th Street and Central Avenue.
“Although it has been sponsored by Big O Tires in the past, with the recent change in their location from downtown, the TCCA wanted to help keep this downtown tradition alive,” said Jan Couturier, manager of the TCCA, which owns the hut.
Couturier thanked Sunrise Rotary, which has agreed to staff and perform touch-ups to get the small house ready for kids and parents on Dec. 17.
“Rotary is helping on this one in regards to doing a little TLC on the house,” Daily said last week. “I’ll get a couple of students from West High to play Santa’s helpers.”
Rick Jimenez, who played the big man in red for more than a decade before Santa’s Hut was temporarily closed, said he was happy the hut is returning and looks forward to reprising his role and bringing a little holiday spirit back to downtown.
“This has been going on for years and years, and when I was a little kid, I remember going over to the little hut and seeing Santa,” Jimenez said. “I came out of retirement to get to see the joy and twinkle in (the kids’) eyes. My favorite thing is seeing the twinkle in their eyes.”
At a glance
• WHAT: Santa’s Hut
• WHEN: noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17
• WHERE: 11th Street and Central Avenue, southwest corner