Extol Magazine

OCT-NOV 2016

Extol Magazine Celebrating Southern Indiana is a local publication that covers stories about businesses people places or events throughout the cities of New Albany Jeffersonville Clarksville Sellersburg and Louisville KY

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The Things People Say to Santa WHAT ARE SOME OF HOOSIER SANTAS' TRICKIER CHALLENGES? AND HOW HAVE THEY HANDLED THEM? "Will you bring me an iPad for Christmas?" "Santa should never promise anything," says Santa Fred Imhausen of Indianapolis. "We don't know what the family can afford. Or maybe the child asks for a puppy, but the family lives in an apartment house that doesn't allow dogs. I just say, 'I'll bring you a surprise.' " "Santa, Billy's been a bad boy, tell him you're going to punish him at Christmastime." "I try to say 'Oh, I'm sure Billy's a good boy,' but personally I don't like when that happens," Imhausen says. "at's not our job, we're not raising the child, though some parents want to use us that way." "How do you get down our chimney?" or "We don't have a chimney." "I tell them Santa has a magic key that lets me in the door," Imhausen says. "Where are your reindeer?" "ey're at the airport," says Imhausen, "resting until Christmas Eve." "How can you be here? You're over at the mall?" "You're right about that," says Santa Rich Clamer of Evansville. "I can't be everywhere. at's my brother. We're all brothers in red." be everywhere. at's my brother. We're all brothers in red." "You don't bring me presents, my parents do." "Yes, because you're one of the fortunate kids, your mom and dad can get you what you want, so I don't have to go to your house," says the fast-on-his-feet Clamer. "I say, "ere are a lot of kids who don't have anything, that's what Santa is all about, making sure they have a great Christmas, too.' In fact, I encourage them to donate presents to those less fortunate than they are." "Can I be Santa some day?" "I tell them, 'Sure, maybe next year you'd like to be my head elf,' " Rich Clamer says. Adds Linda Clamer, Santa's Mrs. Claus: "ey don't forget, either. If we forget to bring the elf 's hat the following year, we'd better be prepared to make one on the spot." "NORAD says you're in Russia right now." "One little boy actually produced his iPad to show me that," Clamer says. "I gave him the big ho-ho-ho and said, 'at's my brother. I don't start until we get to the U.S. e world is so big, one Santa can't cover it all anymore.' " "Can you make my friend stop being mean to me?" "I try to comfort the child with the spirit of Christmas," says Imhausen, "and, separately, I let the parents know what's going on. Sometimes, though, just giving a child the chance to talk to someone he or she trusts can be important." "Can you cure my mommy's illness?" or "Can you get my mom and dad back together again?" "ose are the tricky ones," says "ose are the tricky ones," says Santa Brian McCutchan of Mt. Vernon. "But we've been trained never to make promises we know we can't fulfill," All I can say is, 'I'll say a prayer for you.' It breaks my heart." "You have to be real with these kids," says Linda Clamer. "If we bless them, they bless us." School for Santas There are training programs and schools around the country that teach Santas the dos and don'ts. Charles Howard, a department store Santa from Albion, Mich., who debuted Santa in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1948, established a school, now located in Midland, Mich. There's also a St. Nicholas Institute in Detroit. "I think there are now 20 schools around the country," Shaw says. What do they teach, other than how to avoid being sued? "They teach you how to safely bleach your hair and beard," says Shaw. "How to maintain yourself and your clothes, what kinds of props you can use." They also, he says, "move you from being just a prop, a person in a suit sitting in a chair. They train you to develop back stories to talk about the North Pole, Mrs. Claus, the reindeer, the elves. You're an entertainer now." And they help Santas answer tricky questions. Santa's Gift for Giving Hoosier Santas also looks for ways to bring Santa's type of service to real-life situations. For instance, in 2012, shortly after Hoosier Santas was formed, they sponsored a toy drive to help the victims of the Henryville tornado. Imhausen says there's been talk of partnering with the Santa group in Louisiana to benefit victims of the recent flood in the Baton Rouge area. There's an aspect of social responsibility that most Santas feel is a part of inhabiting the suit and playing the role. "It isn't about you and what you can get out of it," says Santa Jerry Owens. "Ask adults about Santa Claus. They don't believe in Santa anymore. But they've never forgotten what their first experience with him was like." He says he frequently encounters people who tell him, "I was having a lousy day until I saw you, Santa. You made me smile." Hoosier Santas 54 EXTOL • OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2016

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