Santa’s in town

Dec 142003
Authors: Holly Stollsteimer

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

always preferred.

“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

Dec. 20.

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.

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