Last week, my 5-year-old son went to Papa’s Pizza Parlor in Corvallis to attend the birthday party of one of his preschool classmates.

Santa (aka Rick Wells) makes an appearance last week at Papa’s Pizza Parlor. (Photo by Canda Fuqua/Philomath News)

The kids were all surprised to find out that Santa Claus was on the premises to take Christmas wishes and hand out candy canes. And yes, one of Kris Kringle’s primary helpers in this part of the world, Rick Wells, was donning the red suit to bring smiles to the children.

This Santa fella, he really gets around. The community Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and his visit to the Philomath library courtesy of the Lions Club are two of the most visible events for our local Santa celebrity. But believe me, he goes way beyond those appearances. Way beyond. And beyond Philomath from the coast to Salem and elsewhere.

Rick loves this work — and I hesitate to even call it work for the 64-year-old. He fell in love with putting on the Santa suit about a decade or so ago for a friend’s business at the Newport Historic Bayfront. The pandemic a couple of years ago limited his appearances but he still made it to the tree-lighting event — even if he was only waving from an antique fire engine as part of the drive-through format.

In 2020, I interviewed Rick, I mean Santa, about his love for what has become a major part of his life every holiday season. He told me, “I love to see the look on the kid’s face and the joy that it brings to them.”

Speaking from the perspective of a dad with two young ones, they indeed do have those moments of joy with Santa in their sights.

Merry Christmas, Mr. Wells, and thank you for what you do.

The PHS boys and girls basketball teams will play next week in a tournament at Ketchikan, Alaska. (Photo by Ken Duffney/Getty Images via Canva)

2. North to Alaska

The Philomath High boys and girls basketball teams will get some extra coverage next week beyond the typical game reports. Photos from the games, more detailed stories and some sidebar features about player experiences will be part of the Philomath News package.

That’s because I’ll be courtside in Ketchikan, Alaska, from Dec. 28-30 to report on Philomath High’s appearance in the Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic. Yes, it’s the ultimate road trip. Not since covering Oregon State football in a 2014 game at Hawaii have I gone so far to provide coverage.

The last week of December tends to be one of the slowest news periods of the year and is typically when I publish year-in-review stories — which can be written ahead of time. This allows me to spend some time outside of my daily routine with the excursion to Ketchikan fitting in with my responsibilities.

Don’t get me wrong — it won’t be all work and no play. I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska, so this trip is also for pleasure and not just business.

I’ll write about this in next week’s Warrior Watch, but the bracket shows the girls opening on Dec. 28 against Metlakatla at 12:30 p.m. (Ketchikan is one hour behind us here). Metlakatla has an enrollment of under 100 students and is located not too far from Ketchikan on the nearby Annette Island.

The boys, meanwhile, will open at 9:15 p.m. against Barrow (which is located in Utqiagvik). The Whalers have an enrollment that’s roughly half the size of Philomath. Of course for you geography fans, Point Barrow is the northernmost spot in the United States.

3. New features

When I catch a breather in my day-to-day work schedule, I have a tendency to brainstorm for new ideas. It can be easy to get stuck in a sort of rut with my writing, so new features bring variety to the job and hopefully, enjoyable experiences for the readers.

One of these features is something I had done in the past but I’ve decided to bring back. I’m calling it Warrior Watch and it debuted last week. In a nutshell, this is a sports-related feature that provides a little extra beyond those game stories. I often have notes left over from the games and there are various other tidbits that I can bring to those who love the Warriors. Look for this feature to go on the website on Wednesdays — which is by design because it’s usually the slowest sports day of the week.

In my former position, one of the most popular features each week was a column I called From the Past. This included various excerpts from yesteryear that folks seemed to enjoy reading. When I launched Philomath News, I didn’t bring From the Past into the fold but I think it’s time. Philomath has a fascinating past and I’m looking forward to diving back into it. I’m penciling From the Past to be published on Tuesdays.

Another new feature is something I’m calling Three Things (and you’re reading it right now). Three Things gives me an opportunity to write a little extra on what might be going on around town or even just my perspective on whatever topic comes to mind. I’m giving myself some freedom to write what I want — so sure, you’ll notice some editorializing. Call it a fun feature outside of the norm. I’m thinking Fridays for when these will go on the news site.

Finally, in a sort of reincarnation of a series I published years ago, I’m planning to debut a new feature after the first of the year that I’m calling Inside Philomath. This will be presented in a Q-and-A format with a different person interviewed each week (or every other week). I’m thinking I’ll keep it light and fun but there could be occasions when we need to delve into a more serious subject. I’ll probably experiment with the format over time. I’m penciling Inside Philomath into my weekend publication schedule.

That’s it for this week. Over and out.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.