A date with Rudolph was fun

ON any other night eight men dressed in boiler suits and woolly hats would have been arrested for a crime in the offing.


ON any other night eight men dressed in boiler suits and woolly hats would have been arrested for a crime in the offing.

But in the shadow of a thirty foot Rudolph and under Santa's watchful gaze, Ipswich Round Tablers were simply doing a lot of good work for charity.

And with me in tow, patrolling the Woodbridge Road area of Ipswich, Rudolph and his float raised a bumper £720 for the East Anglian Ambulance Service and Suffolk Ambulance and Rescue Service (SARS).

The previous nightly record was £620.

For a three week spell every Christmas a band of doctors, chartered surveyors, accountants and the like, forgot their day jobs and, singing along to Jingle Bells booming from the PA, transform themselves into Santa's little helpers.

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The happy crew of out-size elves scamper alongside Santa's sleigh, buckets in hand collecting money.

Fortified by a quick pint in the John Bull to stave off a wind chill that could have frozen more than Rudolph's nose off, it was difficult to see who enjoyed it more – Ipswich Round Table or the kids who lined the way.

Organiser Chris Powell said: "It's a great way to have a fun time and make a lot of money for a good cause."

Now in its 25th year, Ipswich Round Table hopes to raise even more cash than the £7,000 raised last year for the Disability Care Enterprise.

Most nights, along the average five-mile route, donations top the £500 mark.

The all time record until last night was £620. Last Tuesday saw the Chantry Estate divvy up £420.

According to driver Ian Cook who last week managed to get the thirty foot long float stuck down a Chantry estate cul-de-sac, it's the wealthiest areas in Ipswich that donate the least.

He said: "All those big houses, it's difficult to get people to come out. It's much better in the smaller terraces. One pensioner gives us £20 every year."

Brunswick Drive family, Laura Cullen her husband Matthew and their two children five-year-old Megan and three-year-old George look forward to the float every year.

Mrs Cullen said: "I remember it from when I was little. The kids love it and even my mother in law gets very upset if she misses it."

Waving at Santa, Megan said: "I think I've been a good girl all year. I really hope Santa brings me a doll."

And with another Ho Ho Ho from Santa, aka Laurence Stead, the float pulled off again.

This time heading for the Duke of York for a sherry and a mince pie.

Because even Santa's little helpers need some encouragement.



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