Coppell Chronicle Vol. 2, No. 42
Santa Coming to Havencrest Yet Again • Community’s Input on Vacancy Unveiled • New Memorials Policy Put Into Practice • Storage Units OK'd With Promise of Store
On Saturday afternoon, one of my teenagers asked me to drive through the construction zone on South Belt Line Road “just to see what it’s like.” I agreed, and almost immediately regretted doing so, but it wasn’t a fruitless endeavor. Before I made a right on Wrangler out of frustration, my son noticed that the City of Coppell’s logo has been engraved on the pillars that will support DART’s Silver Line tracks.
When I complimented him on his eagle eye, my son saw something else: an opportunity. He attempted to negotiate a percentage of the proceeds from any new subscriptions stemming from this week’s edition. Nice try, pal.
Speaking of kids, if you read the Coppell Chronicle to your young children — unlikely, but possible — you may want to skip this week’s first article.
Santa Coming to Havencrest Yet Again
You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town.
Those lyrics have been accurate for generations of Coppell kids thanks to Danny Vrla. This week, for the 35th consecutive year, he will don the familiar red suit and welcome children of all ages to visit with Santa in front of his house at 603 Havencrest Lane. The festivities will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
The tradition started in 1988, when Vrla’s son was a kindergartner at nearby Austin Elementary School. Vrla thought a hometown visit with Santa Claus would be a fun activity for his son and his classmates.
When we spoke on the phone last week, I pointed out that many kindergartners still believe in Santa. So how did Vrla explain his dual identity to his young son?
“We always told him I was just one of Santa’s helpers,” he said. “I was just helping spread Santa’s joy and love in Coppell.”
Over the years, Vrla has spread Santa’s joy and love to a wide range of visitors, from as young as one week to as old as 94 years. Vrla himself is 68, which means he’s staged this Christmas effort for half of his life.
“Santa’s age is unlimited,” he said with a chuckle.
He typically interacts with between 90 and 100 people each evening, but the number of visits can spike toward 150 as Christmas gets closer. He said his personal record for one night was 232. He knows the exact number because he gives a candy cane to each visitor, so checking his post-session inventory provides a tally of the evening’s activities.
“He really does embody the season,” said a former neighbor, Tess Nordick. “He’s practiced answers to all of the ‘big questions’ kids have about Santa and the North Pole, and I’m sure extended the believing years for many through careful answers and the occasional planned appearance.”
Regarding those occasional planned appearances: With a particular young neighbor in mind, Vrla once recruited his brother-in-law to wear the red suit so this doubtful child could see Vrla and Santa Claus in the same place at the same time.
“I get the ‘Is he the real Santa?’ question, and I always say he’s a real Santa helper,” said McKee Smith, who has brought his children, ages 8 and 6, to visit Santa on Havencrest since 2019. “One year, I was astonished he was out in a drizzling rain! We took pictures on the porch instead of in the sleigh.”
When Vrla was working for Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, he had to rush home to don his costume and be in the sleigh by 6:30. But his schedule loosened up after he retired in 2016. These days, Vrla’s non-Santa hours are consumed by golf. “I always try to play on days that end in Y,” he said.
Santa’s visits on Havencrest end on Dec. 23 each year. Between you and me, that schedule was established because Christmas Eve is Vrla’s son’s birthday. But Vrla has another explanation for young believers: “Santa’s got to be at the North Pole to start loading up the sleigh.”
Community’s Input on Vacancy Unveiled
On Oct. 19, two days after Tracy Fisher resigned from the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees, Board President David Caviness solicited the community’s input regarding “the desired characteristics of a potential board member in consideration of possible action for appointment to the vacant Place 7 Trustee position.” Anyone with opinions was invited to share them via email between Oct. 20 and Oct. 23.
On Nov. 7, the five trustees who were present unanimously voted to appoint Jobby Mathew as Fisher’s replacement. The trustee who missed that vote, Neena Biswas, was undoubtedly against it. She has called Mathew’s appointment a “sham” and said the community wanted the Place 7 seat to remain vacant until the next election in May. In response, Trustee Manish Sethi said the community’s input was “all over the place.”
In an attempt to clear things up, Ashley Wallace filed a public information request for the emails the district received. Wallace — who was among the 13 people besides Mathew who applied to fill the Place 7 vacancy — was kind enough to share those emails with me and, by extension, you.