Should Saugerties Christmas Candy Run ditch the sirens?

A past Christmas Candy Run (file photo)

When kids in the Village of Saugerties hear a fire engine’s siren on Christmas Day, they know Santa is there with a packet of treats. For some village residents, the sound conjuress up negative associations.

This Christmas will mark the hundredth year of the firefighters handing out treats to children in the village on Christmas day.

For Katie Cokinos and her husband, Alex Rapport, the sound of the truck is an irritant. “Maybe we could discuss and maybe change some ideas on maybe celebrating Christmas day a little bit differently than hearing sirens all day,” Cokinos said at the regular meeting of the village board this Monday, December 3. “We are in the heart of the village, and we hear them all day on Christmas Day. For us, for many people, the sound of a siren means someone is in distress. It is cause for alarm.”


She’s upset because the sound of a fire alarm from a fire truck almost always means there’s someone in extreme need. “On Christmas Day, when we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, maybe there’s a better sound,” she said. Bells or music would be more appropriate alternatives for Christmas.

Kids today are living in a world of greater trauma than a century ago, she said. “The sound of an alarm is not a peaceful way to celebrate such a holy day, and such a day that’s filled with family and being together,” Cokinos told the board.

Mayor William Murphy said that the matter had been discussed at a prior board meeting, “and I understand your concerns, but this is the first time, ever, that someone has complained about the sirens.”

Murphy said he had transmitted the concerns to the fire departments, and there has been some compromise. “We will have music, and the sirens will be curtailed to some extent, but as I pointed out, other fire departments …. I know my kids, they’re 16 and 18 now, but when they were younger they heard a siren and [they said] ‘Oh, Dad, the truck’s coming.’ That’s what kids know right now.”

Christmas is a holy day, people are in church, argued Cokinos, and she asked, “There’s really not another sound that can emanate from a truck giving chocolate?” 

The sound of the Salvation Army’s bells outside a supermarket “calms me down, because it means giving,” Cokinos sdded.

When Cokinos first questioned the use of the siren, Murphy said, “I took it to the board, I took it to the fire department, I took it to many residents, and they all said, ‘What, Christmas Day without the sirens?” Cokinos said she has spoken to many people who would rather have a different sound, one that is like Christmas. 

“You don’t need to know Santa’s blocks away, said Alex Rappoport, her husband. “You need to know when he’s out front.”

Trustee Don Hackett suggested that a petition would let the board see how many people agreed with Cokinos and would provide a basis for decision. “Get a petition together, bring it to the board. That’s the next step that I would take.”

First assistant fire chief Scott Campbell said the department had modified its Christmas procedure. Instead of a steady siren, firefighters will now press the button for the siren and release it, rather than having it sound continuously. “We’re also working on music,” he said.

Following the meeting, Cokinos said she’d be interested to hear what the fire alarms sounded like a century ago. She said that some people had not really thought about the sound, just taking it for granted as part of the tradition, until she mentioned it. “I love tradition, but the tradition at Christmas is giving, not the sound of sirens.” 

She credited the village board with being willing to listen. In future years, she hoped the sirens would give way to other ways to let people know the firefighters – whom she praised for giving up their time on a holiday – were there.

There are 23 comments

  1. JR

    100 years of tradition in our community should be changed for two newcomers??? I grew up in the village as well as my parents did and now my children are. The sound of the fire truck on Christmas morning coming with Santa aboard , sirens and all, has brought joy and happiness to tens of thousands of children in Saugerties and should continue for another hundred years, God willing. What will you want changed next now that you have graced us with your presence??? I for one am grateful for the time and effort the fireman have put into this gift for the children of Saugerties for the past century. It is a Saugerties tradition. There is an old saying ” If you don’t like it here- there is the door”

    1. E.C. Elizabeth

      A little empathy would be nice? Many of our neighbors are suffering from PTSD. Sirens trigger them. We should at least consider their feelings when deciding whether or not to have sirens on the morning of December 25, a festive holiday for many. Not tell them to leave. That’s not how a community should work.

      1. JR

        Seriously EC? Where does the article mention PTSD? It has not been an issue for 100 years. The article states the sirens are an “irritant” to the complainers. It does not seem to be an issue for anyone else.

        1. J. Adsit

          I wonder if for 100 years there might of been other people with PTSD from wars like WW2, Vietnam and Korea that started and participated and had pride in this tradition. Let’s keep small town traditions, they are the backbone of community.

  2. Bells will be ringing......

    TRADITION: The concept includes a number of interrelated ideas; the unifying one is that tradition refers to beliefs, objects or customs performed or believed in the past, originating in it, transmitted through time by being taught by one generation to the next, and are performed or believed in the present.
    Of course, everyone has a right to their opinion, but tradition is what you know and has been passed down from generation to generation. No one would argue that Christmas should reflect “giving”, but this has been the tradition in our community for one hundred years. I have lived her for 50 years, and having moved from the city, we always looked forward to the sirens on Christmas day and we passed down that tradition to our children. Now, we will not be able to share that with our grandchildren.
    I am moved to ask, every time the siren goes off, do you have panic and stress because someone else is in distress? That’s pretty serious. You really can’t let that control you like this. You prepare yourself, on Christmas day, or the designated day that the fire departments are distributing candy, and you say, “I am going to hear sirens today. Don’t panic or worry, it will be ok.” I am by no means, undermining the very serious nature of fire calls or sirens. Believe me, I heard the siren go off 26 years ago, and never dreamed it was my family involved in a car accident. But, it was. I cannot, will not let that control my emotions. Transfer the fear to “the fire department is going to help someone”. ‘
    But, for now, please leave the traditions of this village the way they are. I am all for change, when it is for the good of the order, but when a very small minority complains, do we really have to jump to satisfy them?

  3. kim emerson

    “100 years of tradition in our community …” 100 years ago when it might have been a good idea the sirens sounded nothing like these. If tradition is the thing to preserve, then by all means stay with traditional sounds. Anyone alive today who feels threatened by losing today’s sirens to a diminishing of tradition are largely considering the tradition of their own lifetime and not anything from 100 yeas ago. I don’t hear anyone from 100 years ago protesting this proposed change.

  4. William T

    Ive lived in this town for 52 years and never heard of these two….now they wanna change a tradition because this disturbs them personally? You should return to where things are much better then here…maybe then youd be happy. God Bless

  5. K Hoss

    The issue is the sound of the sirens. 100 years ago it was bells most likely. Not sure why it can’t still be bells.
    Love the tradition and my daughter loves to run out to get the chocolate. None of us like the sirens and for years have talked about it and wondered if there were any possible alternatives.

    Its the only day of the year when the streets are quiet. Maybe that could be a gift only punctuated by bells or something a little less strident than and emergency siren?

  6. C

    I think a lot of people are forgetting what this is all about. It’s for the KIDS. To some of the kids in our community it may be the only time they see Santa. To some , Santa comes riding in a sleigh pulled by reindeer but to others who may be less fortunate Santa comes on a firetruck and brings candy. Don’t belittle and destroy kids imaginations and beliefs because the sirens bother you. To them the sirens are the bells u talk about 100 year ago. To these kids the sirens that last a few minutes make a lifetime of change to them . Let’s think more about them and less about ourselves

  7. Daisy Bolle

    Nobody is suggesting we get rid of Santa riding around on Christmas Day with treats. Simply changing the siren to the sound that the firetrucks had 100 years ago when the tradition started is an amazing compromise. The sound of a modern day siren should be sacred. It means get out of the way, because we are going to save somebody! The Saugerties fire men and women are incredible and I am so thankful to them. I think a bells or whatever they had 100 years ago on firetrucks would me much more pleasant on Christmas day, and the kids will have no problem hearing those bells and running out to see Santa. Thank you Friendly Saugerties, for
    considering it.

  8. J Man

    Obviously the sirens have been around longer than these 2 residents have lived there. You moved there! It’s not like this is something new since you moved to the village, why is it all of a sudden an issue? I live in the Glasco FD and hear the alarm from the the FD go off all hours of the night. Obviously my mind says “oh no I hope it’s not serious” but you adjust. Do you not think that something horrible (god forbid) can happen on Christmas morning and you would hear more sirens than just 1 fire truck? You can’t use “it’s the one day of the year that is quiet” as a reason to shut down the sirens for Santa, IMO. These men and women take their time away from their families on Christmas morning so that they can carry on a tradition for others children who get so excited when they hear those sirens!! Maybe you should think of that instead of it being annoying to the 2 of you! Maybe buy some earbuds and listen to Christmas music? 🤷🏻‍♀️

  9. Moving on

    Did the bells (and assuming it was bells because sirens had not yet been invented?) from a hundred years ago indicate that someone was in distress? Is the issue the fact that the sirens are annoying? Because there are a lot of things going on in the world, in our town, in life that I find very annoying but I tolerate them. Must we raise a conflict over everything we find distasteful, or annoying?
    The whole discussion is kind of a silly issue to be divisive about.

  10. Sawyers Fan

    First off, I couldn’t care less about the sirens on Christmas. It has never bothered me. If it was switched to bells or music or whatever, I probably wouldn’t even notice. Second, the kids don’t care if it’s bells or music or sirens, they’re just happy to get the free chocolates on Christmas. GOSAWYERS!!!!

  11. K Hoss

    “First assistant fire chief Scott Campbell said the department had modified its Christmas procedure. Instead of a steady siren, firefighters will now press the button for the siren and release it, rather than having it sound continuously. “

    An entirely reasonable compromise In response to community members’ concerns. Thank you. I might suggest not going down the road of music since it’s likely to create more problems than it solves. Not having sirens be continuous would be welcome.

  12. Sandy Terpening

    I can’t believe this is becoming an issue…I grew up in the village and could not wait to hear the sirens on Xmas has been a tradition for over 100 years and no one has Two people don’t like it…really??? What next…

  13. JR

    With over 300 comments on the Saugerties Times facebook page and 99% disagree with Cokinos and Rapport I would say it is pretty clear how the people of Saugerties feel. Maybe they should do some research next time before wasting the time of the village board. If I remember correctly, Mr. Rapport was very critical of our school system a few years back. He even ran for the school board. He did not receive many votes. Friendly Saugerties is an awesome place to live and new comers are welcome with open arms. However, We love our traditions and we have a bunch of them. Take it or leave it.

  14. JP

    PTSD’s really? I doubt it! Sounds like another couple of people that want to come up and change things. I think we have enough of those people. If you move here, you should be happy with the traditions we have. I’ll never understand why people move here and than want to change things.

  15. Justin Utter Sawyer

    The whole world is rapidly dying, and this is what pulls your chain. You have all got too be kiddin’. Holy crap, how ridiculous. These two, should have been given ear plugs, and told to hit the road. Again, how ridiculous.

  16. Persephone

    I thought it was against U.S. Law to use public monies for this birthday party? Who owns these sirens anyways? Not Demetrius.

  17. Bob Swingle

    “… Kids today are living in a world of greater trauma than a century ago…” Really? A century ago, we were involved in the First World War. I am fairly sure, that being a kid during WWI, was quite a lot more tramatic, than the overindulged children, of today. Most of the world was living in poverty, compared to today. Why, I believe just the opposite, kids today are far too pampered. That includes this couple, if they believe that horse dung. Kids live in more trauma now, than a century ago, what a hoot! This couple is a piece of work, sheesh…

  18. M. T. Lee

    I love the siren going off a block away, it gives us a chance to throw shoes, coats on and prep to go meet Santa. You go Saugerties Firefighters, volunteers, friends! You All Rock for what you do! Thank you and Merry Christmas ❤🎄☃️

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