Well, a single entity, even one imbued with the magic of Santa, cannot be everywhere at once. So he fills malls with helpers and devotes his attention to one city.
Don’t ask me how I know this, but in 2000, I met the real Santa for the first time. I knew it when I looked in his eyes, those twin snowglobes of warmth.
After a transitional 2015 which saw Santa vacate his traditional winter throne at the Apache Mall and move to ABC Toy Zone, we are happy to report that The Real Santa will be back in Rochester this holiday season. He will be at the toy store from November 26 until December 24. His hours of availability vary by day, to see the complete schedule, visit their website.
“He stopped in here just a couple weeks ago and dropped off his chair. He wanted to check out what the setup was going to be like,” said Steve Nordhus, owner of ABC Toy Zone.
Nordhus described the response last year as overwhelming. Lines stretched outside the doors and close to 1,000 kids came through in a five hour window.
“He’s been coming [to Rochester] twenty years and he’s touched a lot of hearts. That’s the real santa to a lot of people,” says Steve. “It was more commercialized than it has been, in the last few years. He opened our eyes last year. He touched Rene and I personally, just by the connections he had.”
I wanted to learn more about how Santa formed those connections, so I called him on a secret line Steve provided.
I dialed. “Santa Claus is coming to town” is his ringback tone. Then, he answered.
Santa: Merry Christmas, this is Santa Claus.
507: How’s it going? Still got time for an interview?
Santa: I’m doing real time on my North Pole hair style, this elf is touching up my rootage, because I’m not fully mature yet, I’m at the hair salon. That’s okay, I’ve got nothing else to do.
507: Do you remember me? From the sleep number bed store in 2013?
Santa: …..okay, you went in the Sleep Number Comfort store, and…
507: I’m just introducing myself, we’ve met before.
Santa: Okay, well, yeah. That’s easy for you to say. I’ve met everyone.
507: I’m interested in your journey to ABC Toy Zone and what the reception has been like there and what Rochester means to you. We’re very honored that you keep coming back here every year.
Santa: I was just very humbled and grateful of the response that I received being at the ABC Toy Store. The folks were just so supportive in many ways and, gosh, it came in just like a controlled Tsunami, I had lines, it was kind of fun to put a twist on their side of the fence, you know, ‘How many pictures can I take?’ And the response was, ‘Well, until your battery runs dry.’
It was really good stuff. I was just humbled by all of it and was just very grateful. I received such a positive response that by the end of the Christmas season, people asked, are you coming back, I said, yes, I have to come back. If I didn’t come back, I would, I’m to believe there would be a busload of moms coming out to Colorado with burning mistletoe to find me.
507: What has fostered such a special bond between you and this community?
Santa: I wanted to make each exposure for the child with Santa Claus make the child be the center of the universe. Make them feel that, I am all ears, all eyes, all listening for that child. I knew that, if you take care of the child, everything else comes into place.
I would take the time for the child and to listen because at that age, their imagination is 360, 3-D, 4G, HD, gluten free, it’s all big time. So I made it as big as I could. To be Santa Claus, I mean, everything is possible with imagination.
I went the extra effort to get that extra pose or just to take the time to listen. So I think that’s where I was able to get emotional ink tattoos not only on their hearts, but they tattooed emotional ink on mine.
507: If there are some bad little readers who have been misbehaving throughout the year, is there anything they can do in these last minute times here to shape up and make sure you’re not leaving coal? Is there time to repent?
Santa: They say there’s a nice list and there’s a naughty list. Well, there’s really not a naughty list, just a list of children who have more opportunities to do better for themselves and the ones that they love.
But for those children who have a broader range of improvement to do better, I encourage them. What do the letters, HO HO HO stand for? HO HO HO, it stands for help out, help out, help out. So what can they do to help out to make Christmas a little bit better, not only for themselves but for everyone?
There’s always hope. They’re not destined that they have to continue in that rut of life, in that darkness of being. We can all grow, even children. That’s deep.
507: That is deep. Let’s say there’s a child out there who has enough material possessions, what are some nonmaterial things you think might be okay to ask you for? I know there’s the typical World Peace stuff like that… what are some other things you might reccomend sort of pooling their psychic energy for?
Santa: The biggest you could ever give or receive is love itself. That can be expressed in love in action, love in doing, love in being, love in spoken word of appreciation for others, or love and prayer, or love and just being quiet. But I guess a good present would be, wow, a present of something even made by themselves to give to someone else. Or, like, something that seems to be in short demand is just stopping your world and giving time to someone else, to show that you care.
507: Is there anything you want to tell the people of Rochester before you get here? Do you want them to bring apple cider or should they hold off on the cookies until Christmas eve?
Santa: Hold off on the cookies. They don’t have to bring cookies and milk while I’m at the ABC Toy Zone. I thank them all for leaving all the milk and cookies that they do leave, and if they do leave out reindeer treats, please no bubble gum for Rudolph. I’m very excited to continue my presence for Rochester to be their Santa Claus. It’s a privilege that I don’t take for granted and it makes me very humble and grateful.
I’ve made a lot of great friends with nothing more than years of ten or fifteen minute visits. But they’re lasting.
507: Well, I’ll let you get back to your haircut, but Merry Christmas, Santa and thanks for talking with me.
Santa: Merry Christmas to you, and I just checked the list and you’re still on the good list.
507: Cool. Well, I’ll be at Toy Zone to let you know what I want.
Santa: Bring your camera and other people.