Saturday, June 25, 2011

Taking a time-out to go back to High School

It has been a long time since high school and that world seems like a far off place. Of course my "real" reality is not the typical path chosen by most. But it is the one that best fit me and so I might look at life in a different way.

The reality of my world is that I make a fulltime living being Santa Claus. Since the inception of a “live” Santa visiting children some 170 years ago there have been only five Santas that have done Santa as a living for a span of a decade or more. I happen to be one of those men. I’ve been a fulltime Santa for over 25 years and only one man in history has more fulltime years at this than I do…and he helped me get a “D” on my high school junior year term paper about what I wanted to do for a living. In a way that is some sort of poetic justice for me today as I think that paper and a certain English teacher that graded it motivated me more than anything else. I knew she was wrong.

This upcoming weekend, the Fourth of July celebration in Watseka, Illinois, my graduating class of 1981 will celebrate our 30th anniversary…so I have made arrangements to take a few days off and go back to high school. I have mixed emotions about the whole thing. I know that since I left high school I have changed a lot. And of course all of the 100 or so of my classmates have too. That’s just part of going from a young person to a middle aged person.

Reminiscing about days gone by is fun. Heck that was the point of this blog in the first place. I have probably forgotten more about high school than I can remember. And that is most likely true of everyone. But that is not what is important.

In my humble opinion, it is not that thirty years have passed or so and so was a jock, musician, drama queen , a rah-rah or stoner…and it is not about high school any more. What it is about is that these people were a part of my formative years. They were and some still are a part of my life. It does not really matter where anyone ended up or who does what and where…as long as they are happy. That’s what is important.

If anything comes out of this reunion for my classmates and me, it’s the feeling that we all still have a common bond to each other. I hope this is a reunion not a “let’s party dude” or “class of 81 rules” thing. High school was a long time ago and all of us are now in our late 40s so no one should expect a 17 or 18 year old mentality. Hopefully people can just be themselves.

Going to a class reunion is a rite of passage in some ways. I never attended the 10th or 20th class reunions, so I think it is about time to go to one. I guess I’m just getting older and realizing that life is really very short. Over the past few years my class has lost a few more classmates. Little did I know way back in 1981 that would be the last time I would see some of these people. That is why this reunion is important also. You never know the cards the game of life will deal you.

I do look forward to seeing members of my class. As I said before, they all were a part of my formative years as a person and in a way as Santa Claus. That is my connection to the Watseka Community and the High School Class of 1981. And I thank them for it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Welcome to Santa's Village Paizley

It is not too often in one’s life that miracles happen. Miracles don’t have to be world changing or earth shattering to be important in an individual’s life. With the reopening of Santa’s Village this past month I have seen these “little” miracles happen at the park. As Santa, I try to meet and greet each and every person who visits Santa’s Village. I appreciate the time and the money spent by these guests to come to the park and enjoy Santa’s Village again. But every now and then a “little” miracle will happen.

For many generations of Chicago area children Santa’s Village was an annual summer outing with mom, dad, brother, sister, and even grandma and grandpa. Five summers have come and gone since Santa’s Village was last open and now we have a new generation of young children who have never had the experience of the park. It is really something to see the magic in a child’s eyes when they enter into the park and see it for the first time. It is also special to see a young parent and a new grandparent experience it for the first time with a child. It brings back many memories and connects them with a new memory of Santa’s Village that all three generations can share.

I first appeared as Santa at Santa’s Village some twenty five years ago in 1986. In the spring of 1988 my daughter Holly was born and I got to welcome her to the park. My daughter grew up with Santa’s Village and me being the park’s Santa. It was different for her I imagine. Well, Holly is all grown up and married to a great young man named Nicholas. Who else would Santa’s daughter marry? About two years ago God blessed Holly and Nick with a beautiful little girl named Paizley… my first grandchild.

My job at Santa’s Village is to create magic and bring the character of Santa to life for children of all ages. I’ve welcomed literally hundreds of thousands to Santa’s Village and have been seen by millions in the many parades, Christmas appearances, and promotions we do. But there was one thing that I had never done and that was about to change.

A couple Saturdays ago Holly and Nick brought Paizley to Santa’s Village and this time I got to be the recipient of the magic. The day was special in many ways. Holly got to relive old memories of her childhood at the park with her husband and the both of them got to create a new shared memory with their daughter. As Holly’s father I got to see my daughter experience the park with her daughter and as Santa, I got to welcome my granddaughter to her first ever visit to Santa’s Village.

Some say there are no miracles left in the World. Well, I disagree. Miracles can happen…even for a guy who is Santa Claus.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Coming Full Circle

After 5 years Santa’s Village in Dundee, Illinois is open. The park’s last day of operation was on September 18, 2005, but the park and Polar Dome officially closed on May 30, 2006. It is a great feeling to be back at Santa’s Village as there are so many fond memories of the park for me. I first became Santa Claus at Santa's Village in 1986. A regional photo company called Instant Photo Corporation (IPC) had the contract of supplying the park’s Santa. I worked for IPC as a Santa trainer back then, so it was natural that I would be at Santa’s Village. IPC dissolved as a company in late 1988 and I took over the contract at Santa’s Village in 1989 with my own company Santa Claus Productions.

Now 25 years later, a bit older, heavier, and with less hair on my head, I find myself back at Santa’s Village. It is like walking back in time. The property of Santa’s Village is divided into two sections, The Paintball Explosion and Santa’s Village Azoosment Park. I do the Santa thing for both companies and really enjoy being a part of the re-opening of Santa’s Village property. I guess in a way I have come full circle.

Visit Santa from Santa's Village Click Here .