It was 25 years ago this Mother’s Day in 1986 that I became the Santa from Santa’s Village in Dundee, Illinois. Being the St. Nick for a theme park that is based on the legend of Santa Claus is a true fulltime job. It requires upwards of 200 days a year in appearances for the park and at Christmas time. It is also a neat way to make your living. Now I am not a 24/7/365 Santa by any means, that is just not my cup of tea. And I know that I have been very fortunate to be a true year-round Santa.
From 1986 until the park closed in 2006, I was Santa over 200 days a year…for 21 years. After the park closed I still did Santa many dozens of times a year in numerous locations including Santa Claus, Indiana and of course my Christmas Season. The property owners kept me informed during the past 5 years the property sat unused and I kept a presence at the park during that time as I had complete access. Now with the re-opening of the property, I have to get back to my real job…being Santa from Santa’s Village.
Back in 1986, I had no idea that my life would take the path that it eventually took. I did though write a term paper my junior year in high school about the possibility of being Santa and making a living at it. It got a “D.” Today, in a way, that is some sort of poetic justice for me.
Over the years I have kept daily log books or journals, as some would call them, of my vocation of Santa. These logs started back in 1985 when I was hired by Instant Photo Corp of America. There are now some 70 spiral bound notebooks of information, feelings, reflections, and business of my life.
My father was and is still a very intelligent man. He and my mother are both 80 years old and have been married for 60 years. They are really the foundation of my career in so many ways. And it was s stroke of genius by my father that led to all of this.
Back in 1985, I was a recent graduate with a business marketing degree from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois and as with most graduates, I was look for a job. I came across an ad in the Chicago Tribune for a Marketing Professional and Santa Trainer for a photo agency that provides pictures with Santa to major malls and department stores. I wanted the job of course.
I prepared a resume and let my father review it. He told me he knew I had the qualifications for the job, but my age would work against me. So he came up with an idea. He re-worked the resume so there were not dates and told me that if I got the interview he would take me. Now, I am 23 years old at the time, I did not need my daddy going to an interview with me if I got one. He insisted that we wait and see if I got an interview first, then he would discuss why he would take me. Well, I applied and did get the interview.
With the interview secured, my father told me of his idea. He strongly suggested that I go in full Santa regalia to the interview. If I was to be the Santa Trainer, I better know the part, plus the suit, wig, beard, and make-up would conceal my age. And without the dates on my resume, they would not really know…at least for a while. He mentioned also to not break character if at all possible.
To make a long story short, I was hired on the spot as a fulltime employee…their Santa Trainer. It was with Instant Photo Corp that led me to Santa’s Village in the spring of 1986. They had the contract at the time. When IPC folded in early 1989, I formed my own company, Santa Claus Productions and have had the contract with Santa’s Village and the property ever since. Now 25 years later, I am still Santa from Santa’s Village.
Last weekend as Santa we opened up part of the property and on May 27th the entire property will open for day to day operations. I have spent this week reflecting how my life has now come full circle. I have read my entries in my log books from 1986 and I found most entries I feel the same about today.
From…Mother’s Day 1986… “My first day at Santa’s Village was today. Man is this cool! I only wish the suit was as cool. I just hope that this lasts forever…”