Local children will be able to whisper their Christmas wishes to Santa Claus before he sets off on his Christmas Eve journey around the world.
The Jolly Old Elf will be visiting the area this month — posing for photos and listening to children’s Christmas wishes.
“I wish I had a tape recorder with me sometimes,” says Alta resident Larry Bruner, who sometimes fills in for the Jolly Old Elf during the holidays.
“One time a few years ago I was set up at the Alta-Dutch Flat School for kids to have their picture with Santa,” Bruner continued. “We were ready a little early so I asked a little girl if she wanted to tell me what was on her list. She climbed up on my lap, looked me in the eye and said, ‘You see, that is the problem! My sister knows what I want and I can’t find her!’”
Bruner, who lets his short-cropped white beard grow out for the holiday season, said he is used to people comparing him to St. Nick.
“Sometimes I’ll be at a grocery store and look down an aisle and there will be a little kid just staring at me,” he said. “He’ll tug on his mother’s hand until she bends down to see what he wants. When they look up at me and smile, I know what they are talking about.”
Bruner said that strangers often stop and ask if he knows he looks a lot like Santa Claus.
“I just nod yes and take it as compliment,” said the retired real estate broker.
Unlike professional Santas who are in high demand, Bruner limits his appearances.
“I used not having a suit as an excuse for several years, but now I have the suit and limit my schedule to two to six appearances during the season,” he continued. “One of the drawbacks to having a full beard is that older kids are becoming skeptical and want to pull on it to see if it is real.”
While beard pulling may push a kid to the naughty list, Bruner enjoys adding to the nostalgic feel of the holiday season.
He recently made a special appearance at Alta’s Little Bear Creek Tree Farm where a group of children quickly lined up to share their Christmas secrets with him.
“I want a horse!” said 4-year-old Serena Bailey of Alta.
“Oh my!” exclaimed Serena’s mom, Cynthia Bailey.
“Well, that might be too big for the sleigh,” responded Bruner with a grin. “How about a pony instead? But, we would need to get your parents’ approval first.”
Mom, still surprised by the request, said she didn’t know if a horse would get the final stamp of approval.
After thinking about it, Serena settled for a candy cane.
Dealing with unusual requests is a universal dilemma, according to another local Santa lookalike.
“You never know what kids are going to say,” said the man who will pose as Santa Claus during Colfax Winterfest on Dec. 12.
The local resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, has played the role on behalf of the Friends of the Colfax Library for the past eight years.
“Sometimes you have kids in a sad situation, who ask for a wish that is beyond what can fit under a tree or in a stocking,” he said. “But for the most part, kids are just drawn to Santa.”
When asked how he began his Kris Kringle career, he laughed.
“Actually someone roped me into it. The guy who did it for years got sick and couldn’t make the appearance anymore, so I stepped in,” he continued. “He literally passed his suit down to me! I wore it until last year when Mrs. Claus made us a matching set.”
Both Santas agree that dressing the part is something they enjoy.
“It adds to the celebration of the Christmas season,” acknowledged Santa’s stand-in.
12/3/09 – by Marci Seither, Colfax Record correspondent