Santa Claus is coming to town

A Courier-Wedge exclusive interview with Santa and Mrs. Claus
There will always be a Santa as long as you believe. Kids grow up so fast these days. Remember to play, relax, and be a child...

    He's making a list and checking it twice as the clock ticks away to Christmas Eve. In just one week, Santa Claus will be visiting children far and wide to deliver gifts for Christmas morning.
    The Courier-Wedge was fortunate enough to be granted a moment of good St. Nick's time earlier this week.
    Santa and Mrs. Claus have a cottage in every state of the Union, and every country in the world. They often travel around to visit with children throughout the year, but don't get to every cottage each year. They've traveled by car, motorhome, boat, and motorcycle to get around.
    Mrs. Claus said Christmas time is fun, exciting, and stressful.
    "There are so many things to do and places to go," she said. "It is all worth it when you see the joy Santa brings."
    Mrs. Claus said she receives a lot of help from the elves.
    "They help me complete many tasks," she said. "So even though I have lots of things to get done, many hands make the work get done faster, and make it much more fun."
    Santa and Mrs. Claus met at college.
    "I, and about six elf supervisors were taking some classes at a college that had Industrial Education and Technology in Wisconsin," Santa said. "We were learning how to make our North Pole operation more efficient. We learned a lot that summer."
    "I was studying home economics, or cookie baking, which actually comes in handy for me as Mrs. Claus," she said.
    Santa said he remembers seeing a shy girl across the commons, and thinking she was cute.
    "Little did I know that she was to be the future Mrs. Claus," he said. "We have been married a long time, but it seems like yesterday when I saw her on campus. Our saying is 'yesterday-today-forever."
    "When I first met him he was just a cute guy who I found out was kind, generous, and later found out why," Mrs. Claus said. "Never did I think who he really was would change my life in such a marvelous way."
    Mrs. Claus said being married to Santa is interesting.
    "He meets so many interesting people and visits places all over the world," she said. "I love listening to all his stories of his travels and love it even more when I am fortunate enough to go along."
    Mrs. Claus said the thing she enjoys most about Christmas time is the spirit of Christmas.
    "Time with family and friends all create great traditions and memories," she said. "And knowing that Santa and I are not the reason for the season, but we help support the spirit of Christmas."
    Santa said he most enjoys seeing the joy on children's faces, and families when they are surrounded by the Christmas spirit.
    To balance life between home and business, Santa said he delegates.
    "I have very competent head elves, Bernard and Curtis, who work around the clock to coordinate visits and production and delivery schedules," he said.
    Mrs. Claus said she decorates their home right after Thanksgiving.
    "I love a real Christmas tree, so I can't leave that up at the cottages all year when we're at the North Pole," she said. "Lukily I have the elves to help me get it all done."
    Santa said reading is his way to relax and not think about the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season.
    "I also am an avid fisherman," he said. "I love to fish for all fish, depending on where we are, but love to catch bass and northern. When in the warm climates or in the oceans, Mahi Mahi and sailfish are fun, as well as hundreds more."
    Mrs. Claus also said she enjoys reading.
    "It's my favorite way to relax and escape to another place," she said. "I love walking our dog—we have a dog and cat at each of our cottages around the world—it's good exercise and it's a good place to take some deep breaths and think."
    Santa said he spends a lot of time keeping track of the naughty and nice lists.
    "We have scout elves, which some people call the Elf on the Shelf, that watch children and their families on a daily basis," he said. "And thank heaven for tablets. I have all the information updated to me on my tablet by the scout elves daily. Children get flagged if they are getting too close to the naughty list,  and I personally go and observe the child and offer ways to turn it around. Sometimes it works, sometimes not."
    Santa said staying off the naughty list is very simple.
    "Children need to listen to their parents and grandparents," he said. "Oh yes, picking up dirty clothes and toys when you are done is important, but listening and not talking back is the 'biggy.'"
    Santa also has shop elves that do all the making of the toys, he said.
    "Most have families, and their wives and some girlfriends help Mrs. Claus with making cookies and feeding this hungry group," he said.
    The elves start out in school to be trained in the basic operation of the North Pole, then take a battery of tests to see what job they would be best at.
    "The next step is six months of specialized training, and finally, they work under a seasoned elf worker," he said. "As elves retire, new ones keep the system going. It works quite well."
    Santa said Lark Toys in Wabasha is one of his factories.
    Santa also said he has eight sets of reindeer.
    "Everyone knows the famous set, led by Rudolph," he said. "With more reindeer, we're more efficient in delivering toys around the world."
    Santa said Curtis, the head elf of distribution, and Bernard, the head elf of public relations, pre-stage the sleighs, and they are fully loaded for the next area to deliver.
    "I make eight outfit changes as we deliver toys around the world," Santa said. I wear heavy gloves, a parka, and thick boots up North, to a swim suit and t-shirt when in the tropical areas of the world."
    Sometimes, depending on where Santa makes an appearance, he can look a bit different to the children.
    "Not only do I have many different types of suits, I have a group of elf hairdressers that are great in make-up and hair styling," he said. "The wind in the sleigh makes a mess of hair and suits sometimes."
    Santa also said he has a group of grandfathers that kind of look like him, and they sometimes fill in for him when there is a scheduling mix-up.
    "Sometimes Bernard accidentally schedules two visits at the same time," he said. "Santa can only be in one place at a time."
    Mrs. Claus said her favorite Christmas treat is cookies, of course.
    "I love rolled out sugar cookies," she said. "I have many fond memories of baking cookies with my mom and grandma. We have a little twist—we hand paint them before we bake them. It's fun to see everybody's creativity come out and even little kids can paint. Their cookies come out beautiful."
    Santa also said cookies are his favorite Christmas treat.
    "Chocolate chip is my favorite," he said. "Mrs. Claus makes a fabulous sugar cookie that melts in your mouth. I love hers the best."
    "Silver Bells" and "Jingle Bells" are Mrs. Claus' favorite Christmas songs.
    "I love the sound of bells," she said. "As a little girl, my dad would play 'Silver Bells' on his violin. I can still picture that in my mind. All Christmas songs make me smile and make me happy."
    Santa said there are so many beautiful Christmas songs, that he can't pick just one.
    "I love 'White Christmas' and the 'Halleluiah Chorus' from 'The Messiah," he said. "Then there is the popular one I laugh about because we would never do this—'Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.'"
    Santa said he loves all sports and teams, but if he had to choose a favorite, he said he would choose the Green Bay Packers.
    "Santa owns 100 shares of Packer stock," he said. "I love close games—they are really exciting and I cheer until I'm hoarse sometimes. Go Pack!"
    Aside from Christmas, both Santa and Mrs. Claus said they enjoy Thanksgiving.
    "I think it is so important to take time to be thankful for all that we have been given in our lives," Mrs. Claus said. "I love the beautiful meal and time with family. It is a break before we start the Christmas season."
    "It is a time to share with family and friends, being grateful for all that we have, even though you might not think it is a lot," he said. "Like Christmas, it is a time for peace and love—something we should be doing all year long."
    Santa said the busiest time of year for he and Mrs. Claus is from November 1 to December 23.
    "In the off-season Mrs. Claus and I travel to various countries and states—wherever Bernard schedules us," he said. "Sometimes we might be in your area, sometimes not. But if we are not near you, be it known: there are scout elves everywhere, watching and reporting to me on a daily basis."
    To prepare for Christmas, Santa said he starts a rigorous gym workout in August, but practices Tai Chi Quan throughout the year for balance and mobility.
    "The rest of the time is preparing for production, logistics, and, of course, the naughty and nice list update," he said. "I have to check them twice."
    Santa said most communications are now done by Elf Mail, and they use computers and tablets to track who gets what toy and who is on the naughty or nice list.
    "All children's requests for toys are put in the computer so we can sort who gets what more easily," he said.
    Nowadays, Santa said the younger you are, the earlier you seem to want an iPad or iPhone.
    "I personally like the toys that make you use your imagination instead of reacting to something on a four-inch screen," he said. "As far as the Apple items, we only get so many, because of cost, and we always get more requests than items on hand."
    Santa said they put the names in a bucket and draw for those, and other electronic items.
    "Sometimes you will get one and sometimes you will not," he said. "It seemed the only fair way to do it."
    Santa said it's interesting the way toys have changed over the years.
    "Many years ago children wanted toys they could take with them outdoors to play with and make pretend," he said. "Most had to use their imagination before all the electronics came into play. Now most want electronics of one shape or form. They sit inside and don't talk with anyone. It's not good."
    Sometimes, requests can be amusing to Santa.
    "One time a little girl asked for a real pony," he said. "As with all animals, we meet with the parents and discuss a live pet. We found out that this little girl lived in a fourth-floor apartment. Nope—wouldn't work."
    To fulfill requests for pets, after meeting with parents and confirming the proper circumstances for a live pet, Santa and his elves make sure the family passes a "good home" test, and procure an animal from local humane societies or other rescue shelters.
    "We have so many unwanted animals out there, we try to help them find a good home, too," he said.
    Santa said sometimes, children experience the loss of a loved one close to Christmas.
    "God has a special purpose for loved ones who've passed away," he said. "But don't worry, they can see you."
    On the off-season, Santa and Mrs. Claus travel to some of their cottages.
    "We watch people, as do our scout elves, all year long," he said. "Sometimes children recognize me, and to keep everyone from hearing that, I whisper that I'm on vacation, and to keep it a secret."
    Santa said they have fun seeing how people act after the holiday season.
    "Most are pretty good all year long, and they go on the nice list," he said.
    All-in-all, Santa said there's one part of his job that he most enjoys.
    "The children and their immersion into the magic of the Christmas spirit," he said. "There will always be a Santa as long as you believe. Kids grow up so fast these days. Remember to play, relax, and be a child."

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