Aliases: Jeff Taylor, Old Fuzzy Face
Hobbies: Making Lists, Beard Grooming, Reindeer Games, Chimney Climbing, Expert Cookies and Milk Taste Tester
While we all know the real Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, he has plenty of substitutes out and about around the holidays—taking present requests and polling kids on their “naughty or nice” track record for the year.
A local Kris Kringle shares how he got into the role and why he looks forward to breaking out that red suit each year.
Did you always know you wanted to be Santa Claus?
When my daughter Season was about four or five years old, we asked her what she did at school. She said, “We talked about what we are going to be when we grow up. I said veterinarian or a ballerina.” She asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said, “Santa Claus.” Well, she is a vet tech now… and I’m Santa Claus. It worked out for both of us.
When did you first become Santa?
Back in the ’60s, I was working at a department store and their scheduled Santa got sick. They had a really expensive suit on hand and it fit me perfectly. I went into the hair department and they sprayed a white spray on my long beard. I was just a kid, a hippie with long hair and a beard, and I got to be Santa for a few days as a fill in—it was fun.
And did that experience sort of pique your interest?
I got to the point where I would fill in here and there. I filled in one weekend at River Ridge Mall a year or two after the mall opened. I did it as a joke for a winter fashion show in Lynchburg once. I filled in for folks in Lexington who couldn’t find a Santa for an event.
When did you decide to go all in?
Everybody kept telling me… “You need to do this, you need to do this.” So, two years ago, I went in full force. About two-thirds of my appearances in town are pro bono. I was also Santa in Jamaica at Beaches Resort last Christmas.
Maintaining your Santa status—that must take some effort!
Let’s put it this way, I have more products for my beard than I do for my hair. You really have to take care of it and groom it and trim it. I have a style team that helps me out as well.
Do you have any consistent things you tell children when they sit on your lap?
One thing I always tell kids is to brush their teeth. And I say, “If you need a new toothbrush, maybe I should bring you one.” I also hand out cards to kids to give to their parents so that mom and dad can get in touch with me if they misbehave.
What is your word of advice for those who don’t believe in Santa anymore?
Everybody is Santa Claus. When kids get older and don’t believe in Santa anymore, they should become Santa Claus. They should find somebody who needs something and do their best to get it for them without them knowing.