Becoming a Santa has become an in-depth hiring process, no
longer including fake beards and padded suits.
Peggy Lyle, entertainment director for the Downtown Business
Association, said the Santa in the Old Town Square seems “straight
from the North Pole.”
“He really does go by Santa this time of year,” she said. “He
takes his role very seriously.”
Santa Claus, otherwise known as Wayne the remaining three
seasons of the year, has been in this business since 1995. People
who knew him had suggested him being Santa, and a company recruited
“When people keep saying ‘ho ho ho,’ or ‘you’re a long way from
the North Pole,’ you just start thinking,” Claus said.
According to Lyle, this Santa has worked for many organizations
in the United States. Claus said he’s worked in Georgia, New York,
Virginia, Texas and Colorado. He has a resume, which states his
Cynthia Eichler, general manager of the Foothills Mall, said
their Santa, Bob Wills, has been with them for two years. Cherry
Hill Photo in New Jersey contracted him out to Fort Collins.
According to Eichler, becoming Santa has become a more
sophisticated process. Santas apply to a company like Cherry Hill,
followed by a background check.
If applying Santas don’t have experience, Eichler said, they are
put through a “Santa school” to learn how to act like Santa and
better relate to the children.
“Kids can pose some tough questions and (Santas) need to know
the best way to handle that,” she said. “I’ve heard children ask
for their mothers to come home, and those are some real
Many Santas have acquired special skills. According to Lyle, the
downtown Santa plays the accordion and concertina, speaks Spanish
and sign language, teaches children origami and crafts and reads
“His workshop is very cozy and welcoming,” she said.
Eichler said their Santa has different skills. He now works on
the maintenance crew at the Foothills Mall.
“He’s a very handy guy,” she said.
Claus worked as a teacher for years before becoming a Santa, and
continues to teach occasionally.
Eichler said the beards are not required to be real, but it is
“Kids are smart,” she said. “The more realistic the better.”
Claus said most professional Santas have real beards, and his is
real as well. He said it is more realistic to the children.
“Kids think ‘yeah, he really is Santa Claus’ when you have a
real beard,” Claus said.
Claus said he expects to continue being a Santa for at least
four or five more years.
The downtown Santa listens to children’s wishes from noon to 6
p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, with extended hours until 8 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays.
At 11:30 a.m. he reads children stories and has a craft day on
Pictures are always available with both Santas as well.
“Even college students can enjoy a visit with Santa,” Lyle
The downtown Santa said if students want to make a good
Christmas card, they should stop in.